PROPOSITIONS : Revealing the silent minority

Masons should have to declare membership, says Chris Mullin

Related Topics
If Lord Nolan is serious in his desire to clean up public life - and I am sure he is - there is one shadowy area that sooner or later he will have to address. I refer, of course, to freemasonry.

My proposition is a simple one. We cannot expect the public to have confidence in public institutions when many public servants are known to be members of a secret society, one of the aims of which is mutual self-advancement.

It is no part of my case that all masons are corrupt. On the contrary, I am confident that most masons are honest citizens who would not dream of abusing their position in pursuit of personal gain. I am equally confident that others would. Those who seek evidence need look no further than Inside The Brotherhood, Martin Short's excellent book on the subject.

In Sunderland, part of which I represent in Parliament, there are about 1,700 masons in 29 lodges, embracing a fair swathe of the male professional middle class in the City.

I have the local masonic handbook and among the office-holders whose names are listed I see policemen, magistrates, consultants. I see a former chief executive of the borough council, a former (Tory) leader of the council, a former director of housing.

I see a former deputy director of engineering, who was obliged to resign several years ago after allegations of conflict between his professional duties and outside business interests. His name is preceded by the letters IG which, I understand from those who know about these matters, stands for Inner Guard.

There is no reason to suppose that Sunderland is in any way untypical. There are about half a million masons throughout Britain and they are to be found at every level in every profession.

They are particularly thick on the ground in the police - a fact deeply resented by officers who are not masons. Undoubtedly, they are a factor in the wall of silence which has greeted many investigations into alleged miscarriages of justice.

They are also thick on the ground in local government, where they have a tendency to cluster around planning committees. The planning chairman on the Isle of Wight council recently resigned, complaining of pressure from councillors who were masons.

A Tory MP once told me that 34 of the 39 Tory members of his county council were masons. I do not suggest, however, that masons are exclusively a Tory problem. On the contrary, they are to be found in all political parties.

John Poulson was a mason. So was the late Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery. So, too, was Sir Norman Skelthorn, director of public prosecutions at the time of the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.

A great deal of paranoia surrounds freemasonry and I have no wish to add to it. Happily, the solution is a simple one. It does not involve bans or proscriptions. It merely involves disclosure. It is only necessary to require that public servants who are masons - or indeed members of any secret society - should publicly disclose their membership. That done, the problem will melt away.

It is no good, however, for Nolan to recommend codes of practice or voluntary declarations. History shows that where masons are concerned, these are absolutely useless. Only a legal requirement will suffice.

Three years ago, I introduced a little Bill which would have obliged public servants who were members of secret societies to declare. It prompted a great deal of huffing and puffing from Commander Michael Higham, England's top mason. The Labour Party, he said, didn't publish the names of its members, so why should the masons?

I wrote back offering him a list of all the Labour Party members in Sunderland in return for a list of all the masons, since when there has been only silence.

The writer is the Labour MP for Sunderland South.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Indian bookseller waits for customers at a roadside stall on World Book and Copyright Day in Mumbai  

Novel translation lets us know what is really happening in the world

Boyd Tonkin

Nature Studies: The decline and fall of the nightingale, poetry’s most famous bird

Michael McCarthy
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine