When David Cameron said that Sir Fred Goodwin’s knighthood had “been referred” to the Forfeiture Committee he didn’t say who had referred it.

“Normally”, the rules say, referrals come when an honours recipient has broken a professional code and been referred by the professional body, or when the recipient has committed a criminal offence that attracts a jail sentance of more than 3 months. But neither of those things happened in this case.

No professional body has referred Sir Fred. It’s not clear that he is a member of any relevant body. He has not been convicted of any offence.

This isn’t a breach of rules because the rules simply say that they “normally” apply. But it could be seen as practice moving in an interesting new direction.

If the Honours sub-committee, chaired by the man the Prime Minister newly knighted and promoted Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood (“Deputy Prime Minister” to some in Whitehall)…  If it now moves at its usual stately pace it could be expected to take some time over all of this. It meets at least once a year, might occasionally meet twice a year.

Forfeitures where there is no conviction or professional misconduct have taken years in the past – as in the case of Robert Mugabe losing his honorary knighthood.

But a Whitehall source said there was clearly pressure “to move fairly quickly.”

If Sir Fred is pre-emptorily stripped of his knighthood in the season of City bonuses it might just look like a politicisiation of the honours system, using the whipping away of Sir Fred’s gong to distract attention from current political discomfort elsewhere. Not sure the Palace would like that very much.

I should mention that it was actually the Labour-led Scottish Executive who referred Sir Fred for the original honour and the SNP-led Scottish Executive who later referred Sir Fred to the Committee.

A rare case of David Cameron and Alex Salmond’s interests coinciding?

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