I read with interest that veteran actress Joan Collins is likely to be made a Dame in the New Year Honours List. I doubt it is for her roles in The Bitch, The Stud, or even Dynasty, but for having survived more than 60 years on our screens, and I think she deserves it.

I am just sad, as with Angela Lansbury, that they wait until somebody is in their 80s to present this award, when the natural life expectancy in the UK is about 78. It makes it a bit like a ‘farewell’ 
present, as do lifetime achievement awards.

I recall they delayed giving Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin their knighthoods until they were almost literally about to step into their graves.

Still, they were luckier than most of their era as the Whitehall mandarins at one time seemed to have a rule that if you chose to live and work abroad then you could forget about an acting knighthood.

That is probably why the likes of David Niven, Cary Grant, Ronald Colman and even Boris Karloff missed out. Indeed, Basil Rathbone remarked at the end of his life that he would probably have become a Sir if he stayed on the London stage, but then we would have missed out on his superb Hollywood film performances as Sherlock Holmes.

I wonder why Anthony Hopkins was knighted even after giving up his British citizenship, while Richard Burton and Trevor Howard were ignored. They were, and in the case of Anthony are, all great actors.

They gave one to Stanley Baker, but only when he was dying of cancer, and made Donald Sinden wait until 1997 when it was long overdue.

Times have changed over the past couple of decades and today, the Government seeks to get publicity and goodwill by handing out honours much more freely.

Personally, I think you should be rewarded for a body of work or success over a period of time of some substance. Thankfully, we do not yet have Lord and Lady David Beckham or Sir Simon Cowell, but I suspect it is not that long away.

Richard Attenborough and the likes of David Lean, along with Alec Guinness, certainly deserved their awards and it is a pity the likes of Jack Hawkins did not live long enough to be acknowledged.

I must admit it is a great thrill when that letter drops through your letterbox from the Prime Minister’s office saying he is minded to put your name forward to the Queen. In my case, it was at the end of an eight-year voluntary campaign to save Elstree Studios and they were proposing me for an MBE. I later found out that my secretary and friend Susan had got together a number of signatures, and bless her for doing that as it was something I never expected.

The letter included a simple form on which you either ticked yes or no as to whether you would accept and a warning not to say anything until your name is released to the media.

To my knowledge, only one other person since the studio opened in 1926 had been awarded an MBE for services to it and that was the late Andrew Mitchell, the managing director who saw it through rough times in the 1970s and great success from Star Wars onwards. He was a good friend and I was honoured to be in his company.

It can be unsettling to walk into the ballroom in front of about 400 people and the guards band playing in the balcony to find yourself in front of Prince Charles. However, he made me very much at ease. I asked him if he would visit Elstree Studios and he replied he had not been there since a private visit to the set of Murder on the Orient Express with Lord Mountbatten.

Two years later, he came to open what are now called the George Lucas stages and I had the pleasure to help escort him around.

On his departure he said to me: “Paul, you have been around this studio for a long time and long may that continue.”

Long live Elstree Studios!