THE Forfeiture Committee is run under the auspices of the Cabinet Office and looks into whether or not an honour should be withdrawn after referral from a government department.

In this case, it was the Treasury, which referred the matter of Sir Fred Goodwin's knighthood.

The committee has four members: Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the Home Civil Service; Paul Jenkins, the Treasury Solicitor; Dame Helen Ghosh, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office and Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government.

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The process is shrouded in confidentiality. The Cabinet Office said that it could not comment on the investigation into Sir Fred's honour even though it was David Cameron who made it public.

Once a recommendation is made it goes via the Prime Minister to the Queen for final approval and is made public by being published in the London Gazette, the UK Government's "official newspaper of record".

Removal of an honour is unusual and can take some time. Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, for example, was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994 but this was only revoked in 2008.