FIRST SPECIAL REPORT
Government Reply to the Third Report from Home Affairs
Committee, Session 1996-97
Freemasonry in the Police and the Judiciary
The Home Affairs Committee has agreed to the following
We have received the following response from the Home Office
to our Third Report of Session 1996-97 on Freemasonry in the Police
and the Judiciary.
The Home Affairs Committee report was in the context of arrangements
in England and Wales, as is this response. It is for the Secretaries
of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland to consider whether
similar provisions should apply in those parts of the United Kingdom.
1. In its report, the Committee made this principal recommendation:
"that police officers, magistrates, judges and Crown Prosecutors
should be required to register membership of any secret society
and that the record should be available publicly. However, it
is our firm belief that the better solution lies in the hands
of freemasonry itself. By openness and disclosure, all suspicion
would be removed and we would welcome the taking of such steps
by the United Grand Lodge."
2. This recommendation is consistent with the evidence given
to the Committee by the then official Opposition that "membership
of the freemasons (and any other similar organisation) should
be a declarable and registrable interest" (HC 192-II, Appendix
25, page 139).
3. In the same evidence we said that "we accept that
there are important and sensitive questions about how any register
should be maintained and the criteria for access to this. We
look forward to considering the detailed recommendations of the
Committee on these questions in due course".
4. The Government proposes to implement the recommendation
of the Committee in the manner set out below. It has decided
that the arrangements should apply to police officers, judges,
magistrates and Crown Prosecutors, as the Select Committee recommended
and to probation officers and staff of the Prison Service.
5. The Committee said that it welcomed "the recent decision
of the Council of the Magistrates' Association to propose that
applicants to magistrates' benches should be required to declare
that they are freemasons on their application form and that they
should inform their Advisory Committee if they subsequently become
freemasons. We recommend that the Lord Chancellor's Department
act to alter the wording of the application form accordingly."
The Government proposes to accept this recommendation.
6. All new appointments to the judiciary (including part-time
offices such as Recorders, Deputy High Court Judges etc), to the
magistracy, to the police, to the legally qualified staff of the
CPS, to the Probation Service and Prison Service shall have as
a condition of appointment a requirement to declare membership
of the freemasons (and any later admission to them). We will
consult the relevant bodies on the extent to which new appointments
may include those currently in service but who are appointed to
a wholly new position or transfer in service or who are promoted.
7. For those already serving in the above categories, the
Government accepts the view of the Home Affairs Committee, the
"better solution" lies in the hands of freemasonry itself.
8. Accordingly, the Home Secretary proposes to make a formal
request to the United Grand Lodge that they provide on a regional
basis consistent with the regional structure of the Lodges, the
names and identifying occupations and other necessary details
of those who are or who become freemasons in the specified professions
9. If the United Grand Lodge is unwilling or unable to comply
with this request, or to comply only partially (for example because
it does not itself have the data in the required form) the Government
will initially make arrangements for registers to be opened for
all the specified professions and occupations. All would be invited
to register. Although at this stage a failure to return information
would not of itself be a breach of conditions of employment, any
nil returns would be shown as such on the register.
10. The Government will consult on where the registers should
be available; but in any event it believes that they should be
11. The Government will address the need for legislation having
regard to the extent of compliance with voluntary registers, once
17 February 1998