Beatles guitarist George Harrison is reported to have turned down an Order of The British Empire in 2000 because he regarded it as a lesser honour than the knighthood his bandmate Paul MacCartney had received in 1997.

The Mail On Sunday says that documents they obtained from the UK's Cabinet Office reveal that Harrison, who died aged 58 in 2001, turned down the chance to be included in the New Year's Honours List in 2000.

The OBE was recommended after officials said Harrison should be recognised for his contribution to the music industry. The citation read: "He was a member of a band that many people would say is the best thing that Britain has ever produced, and possibly the best in the world, The Beatles."

However, Ray Connolly, a journalist friend of The Beatles, says that Harrison could have seen the offer as an insult as it was a lesser accolade than the knighthood that his bandmate Paul McCartney received in 1997.

"Whoever it was who decided to offer him the OBE and not the knighthood was extraordinarily insensitive," said Connolly. "George would have felt insulted - and with very good reason."