31/01/2012 16:25 GMT | Updated 31/01/2012 16:34 GMT

Union Welcomes Sir Fred Goodwin Knighthood 'Token Gesture'

A leading union has welcomed the decision to strip former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin of his knighthood.

David Fleming, national officer of Unite, said: "It is a token gesture to strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood, but one which will be well received by the thousands of workers who lost their jobs during his rule.

"Nonetheless this will do nothing to bring job security to the staff across the banking sector who continue to work under a culture of excess and greed at the top. Action from the Government is needed in banking reform, not simply empty rhetoric on knighthoods or shareholder activism."

Fleming's words were backed by Unison general secretary Dave Prentis, who said: "It is only right that Sir Fred Goodwin should have his knighthood annulled. He was at the helm of RBS when the bank played a huge role in bringing our country's finances to the brink.

"It's about time this country's real heroes were honoured with decent pay and pensions. Care workers, nurses, social workers, community support officers and the millions of other vital public sector workers who work tirelessly, day in day out, to make our communities better places in which to live and work. Every one of them is paying a heavy price for the failure of the banks."

Simon Chouffot, spokesman for the anti-poverty Robin Hood Tax campaign, said: "This is clearly the right decision, but removing one man's gong won't repair the damage done to our economy by the financial sector.

"We need our leaders to move beyond tokenism, tackle the unjust financial rewards still rampant in the City, and ensure the sector pays its share to help people hit by the economic crisis."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond MSP said the matter raised two important issues which went beyond Sir Fred Goodwin's case.

"Firstly, in terms of consistency, it raises the question of why members of the House of Lords convicted of serious criminal offences should still be able to sit as legislators in the second chamber.

"And second, this welcome decision must also lead to a wider UK Government policy response to impose much-needed restraint over pay and bonuses on financial institutions within the public sector."

However, Sir Jackie Stewart, a friend of Mr Goodwin, questioned the decision to strip sir Fred of his knighthood.

He told BBC News: "To have this stripped I think is poor for the constitution and very dangerous for the future because does this mean that any person who has received an honour of any kind can be stripped of that honour if their past or future business fails?

"It's not a crime in the sense that of course if somebody has to go to jail I can see the logic of such a knighthood being removed but that is simply not the case.

Meanwhile, Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said he was concerned about "anti-business hysteria".

He told BBC News: "I don't approve of the decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood. I don't think it's a business issue, I think it's an honours system issue. There's a well established practice where if people are convicted of a criminal offence, they lose their honours that they've been granted, that's historic and that is appropriate.

"To do it because you don't like someone, you don't approve of someone, you think they've done things that are wrong, but actually there's no criminality, alleged or charged, I think is inappropriate and politicises the honours system."