Few could argue with this week's decision to strip the UK banker Fred Goodwin of his knighthood. Four years after the Queen had dubbed him 'Sir', his stewardship of the Royal Bank of Scotland had precipitated an eventual $90 billion taxpayer bailout. The RBS calamity is a substantial contributor to Britain's continuing public debt overload.

Mr Goodwin had been honoured for his role in banking and it is sensible that once he dishonoured his bank, industry and national economy that the title was withdrawn. He joins Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and the occasional serious criminal, in that roll of dishonour. "Sircumcised" was one headline summing up his demotion.

Royal and national honours are given for a reason. Too often, in this country at least, that reason is insufficiently specific or legitimate. Too many people are given gongs for doing little more than their jobs had required. Too many airline upgrades and hotel suite discounts are afforded individuals for achievements built on the backs of others.

The truly deserving, with endless curricula vitae of helping others and contributing to the life of the nation, should not have their honours sullied by the disreputable. New Zealand has too many dubious political and business cronies or partisan fundraisers with honorifics or letters around their names. The giving of honours ought to be tightened and the possibility of their withdrawal for abusing the nation's regard made clear.