UK Politics

Miliband: Fred Goodwin should lose knighthood

Sir Fred Goodwin
Image caption Sir Fred was in the charge of the bank in the run-up to its near collapse

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said, in retrospect, it was "clearly wrong" for former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Fred Goodwin to be knighted.

Sir Fred, heavily criticised over the bank's near collapse, was honoured for "services to banking" under the previous Labour government in 2004.

A committee of senior civil servants is considering calls for him to be stripped of the honour.

Mr Miliband told the Daily Mail: "It's right that it should be revoked."

The Labour leader is the latest politician to speak out on the issue - after Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday that it was "right" that the Honours Forfeiture Committee consider the case.

There have been growing calls for his knighthood to be reviewed in the light of the bank's near collapse in 2008, the thousands of jobs lost at RBS and the rest of the banking industry, and its impact on the wider economy.

Mr Miliband told the Mail: "It was clearly wrong for him to be given a knighthood, knowing what we know now about the damage he caused, not just to RBS, but to hard-pressed ordinary families up and down Britain who are now paying the price of his failure.

"It's right that it should be revoked. There is a widespread recognition of the damage Fred Goodwin caused - and I think the privilege of a knighthood is a privilege you should only continue to enjoy if you haven't done such damage to the British economy."

'Perverse'

Mr Cameron has said the forfeiture committee should take into account a critical report by the Financial Services Authority last month, which said poor decisions by Sir Fred and other senior executives were a major factor in the bank's troubles.

Meanwhile, the Conservative MP Matthew Hancock - who was Chancellor George Osborne's chief of staff when the Tories were in opposition - has tabled a Commons motion saying it is "perverse and unacceptable" that Sir Fred should keep the knighthood.

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Media captionWarsi and Twigg: Strip Sir Fred Goodwin of knighthood

The motion argues that Sir Fred was "largely responsible" for the biggest failure in banking history, and the honour should be "forfeited to reflect the severity of his actions and the depth of his management failure".

Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi and Labour's shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg also backed calls for the knighthood to be forfeited on BBC One's Question Time.

'Independent and fair'

But Labour peer Lord McConnell, who was first minister of Scotland when the honour was granted in 2004, said: "Fred Goodwin made mistakes, but so did a lot of other people at RBS, including people on the board who also have honours.

"They appointed him and agreed the strategy and have never been held to account.

"I think the government, both the Labour and Tory government before it, were making mistakes about regulation.

"I sympathise with the public concern on this issue, but I think if you are going to have a system that is relatively independent and fair in allocating these awards then you need to have system that is independent and fair in looking at removing them."

In 2009, Sir Fred told a committee of MPs he "could not be more sorry" for what had happened at RBS.

He oversaw a number of acquisitions that made Edinburgh-based RBS one of the world's biggest banks.

But his multi-billion-pound deal to buy Dutch rival ABN Amro at the height of the financial crisis in 2007 led to RBS having to be bailed out, to the tune of £45bn, by taxpayers.

It is not clear when the forfeiture committee - whose members include the cabinet secretary, the top civil servant at the Home Office, the top lawyer at the Treasury and the top official in the Scottish government - will meet.

The Queen has the sole authority to rescind a knighthood, taking government advice into account.

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