A backlash against the City in the wake of the financial crisis is continuing unabated, as a group of MPs declares that too many heads of big business are receiving honours simply for “doing their job”.
The criticism has emerged from a report by the Public Administration Select Committee, chaired by Tory MP Bernard Jenkin. “It is distasteful and damaging for people who already command vast personal remuneration packages for doing their job to also be honoured for simply being at the helm of large companies,” he said. “This must stop.”
Earlier this year, former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood, opening the process up to questions of how and why candidates are rewarded in the first place. The Committee also said that too many civil servants, politicians and celebrities are scooping honours for no adequate reasons. Indeed, earlier this month it was announced that there would be no “automatic gong” for the UK’s successful Olympic athletes, following criticism over the MBE awards for every member of the England cricket team that reclaimed the Ashes in 2005 – including Paul Collingwood, who scored just 17 runs in the one match he actually played in.
The committee has recommended a more transparent system – including the creation of an independent honours commission to facilitate the depoliticisation of the process – and a rise in the number of honours awarded for community volunteers. In particular, it argues that honours should be awarded for services above and beyond the call of duty, rather than merely the successful execution of rote tasks.
For its part, the Cabinet Office has defended the current system, pointing out that 72% of awards in the last list went to people involved in charitable endeavours. However, the furore over the “former-Sir” Fred Goodwin will almost certainly ensure that honours are placed under far greater scrutiny in future.