Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary information given by the Home Secretary relating to his evidence of 23 October (Q 102)

  When I appeared to give evidence to the Committee on 23 October you asked whether I had lead responsibility across Government for the policy on openness as regards freemasonry. I said I would write to you about this.

  The history to this is that, after consultation with the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, it was agreed that the Home Office would take the lead in co-ordinating the Government response to the Home Affairs Committee's first report on freemasonry ("Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary") published in March 1997. This particular arrangement related specifically to the issue of freemasonry in the criminal justice system.

  The written response to the Committee's second report "Freemasonry in Public Life", made in July 2000 said that: "The Government believes it is best to complete the exercise in the criminal justice system before turning to other areas of public life". The arrangements for registering freemasonry membership in the criminal justice system were to be viewed as a testing ground. Lessons learned from the voluntary arrangements put in place for the judiciary, magistracy and the police could then be applied in considering arrangements for registration across the wider public service.

  You mentioned advice you received as a DTLR Minister. I cannot comment on that, but I am firmly of the view that it is for departmental Ministers to make judgements on how to address concerns about freemasonry in the light of the circumstances of a particular public service which they sponsor. It is of course, open to them to take advice from the central departments which have lead interest in the civil service management code and standards in public life issues. My focus is on the police and prison services. I do not regard myself as having wider policy responsibility on this issue across-government and, as I indicated when I gave evidence before the Committee, this is certainly not a role I would wish to acquire, either by default or design.

9 November 2001

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