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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice