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MPs Warn Over Influence of Freemasons

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MPs Warn Over Influence of Freemasons
By Jo Butler, Home Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Press Association Newsfile
Home News
May 26, 1999

Allegations that freemasonry could have played a part in miscarriages of justice and other major scandals cannot be ruled out, a report by MPs warned.

Although it could not be proved, the report said there were a number of cases including the so-called Stalker affair and the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad scandal where fears of improper masonic influence "may well be justified".

The cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee also called for the names of public office holders who had refused to declare whether they were freemasons to be published, warning the freemasons' "obsessive secrecy" was partly to blame for paranoia about the secret society.

The report also expressed disappointment at the slow progress of moves to make members of the judiciary and the police declare whether or not they were masons. Out of the professional magistrates and judges asked to declare whether they were members, more than 5% either refused to say or failed to reply to the request.

Among lay magistrates, more than 14% did not answer the question. The report said on figures given, as many as 20% of lay magistrates could be masons and up to 10% of judges and professional magistrates.

A similar request among members of the Crown Prosecution Service was answered by only just over half those polled. Voluntary registers among police forces had not even been set up yet - two years after the Select Committee recommended them and figures on police membership were unlikely to be available until later this year.

The report said there should be public access to any registers of membership and called for the names of those who had failed to respond to requests to be published. "Such persons should not be allowed to exempt themselves entirely from the process simply by declining to co-operate," MPs said.

The report insisted that there was a great deal of "unjustified paranoia" about freemasons which distracted from a lot of charitable work undertaken by the secret society. But the society did not help itself by clinging to secrecy, as shown by the refusal of the Grand Lodge to co-operate with the committee's investigation until compelled to by law after months of "prevarication and obfuscation".

Labour MP Chris Mullin today called for legislation to force Freemasons working in the criminal justice system to declare their membership of the secret society. Speaking after the publication of a Commons report which accuses police forces of being slow to set up registers for officers to register their membership he accused Masons of "excessive paranoia".

Mr. Mullin, the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, there was some improper Masonic influence in public life but not as much as many people thought. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The trouble is the excessive paranoia of Freemasons has only exacerbated the situation."

He added: "You can't have at the centre of your criminal justice system an organisation, a secret society, which swears oaths in secrecy to each other. That is bound to arouse suspicion and the simple solution is not to ban or proscribe anything but merely to require disclosure and then the problem will melt away."

Asked if legislation was necessary, he said: "There will have to be if anything is going to change because it is clear there is a great deal of foot-dragging going on."

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