Will 'Fred the Shred' remain 'Sir Fred'?
A clever parliamentary chess move at PMQs yesterday.
In between two spats between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, the Conservative David Ruffley asked about the possibility that former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, Sir Fred Goodwin, (aka Fred the Shred) would be stripped of his knighthood. This was a follow on from a little-noticed exchange at Tuesday's session of the Treasury Committee.
There, Sir David Walker of the Financial Services Authority was quizzed about the FSA report into the collapse of RBS, in the depths of the credit crunch… and the Conservative Michael Fallon raised the issue of whether the criticism of Sir Fred in the report amounted to professional censure. After some humming and hawing, Sir David agreed that it did. Mr Fallon's close ally, David Ruffley sought confirmation.
The importance of this is that censure by a professional body is one of the grounds on which it is possible to strip someone of a knighthood - if the knighthood was awarded for services in the relevant area. Hence the question by Mr Ruffley: "Sir Fred Goodwin has recently been censured by the FSA in their report into the RBS shambles…can the prime minister tell the House when the Honours Forfeiture Committee will be sitting to consider stripping this man of his ill-deserved knighthood?" The prime minister replied that the committee was sitting this week.
I wonder if they will act? There's no precedent for stripping someone of a knighthood for anything less than a criminal offence - and the mandarin-heavy forfeiture committee may baulk at setting one. I would be surprised if Mr Ruffley leaves it there - he thinks retribution should be extracted, and if Sir Fred remains Sir Fred, expect some robust probing of that decision, until the reasons are given to Parliament.