PROPOSITIONS : Revealing the silent minority

Masons should have to declare membership, says Chris Mullin

Share
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

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn