Bowing To The Brotherhood
Government back-down on Freemasons
Squall Download 2, Dec-1999/Jan-2000, pg. 8.
Deputy Prime minister, John Prescott, has over-ruled a government ban on Freemasons holding jobs in the planning inspectorate after pressure from former Tory planning officer and leading Freemason, Tony Baldry. Environment minister, Nick Raynsford stated in July that “membership of a secret society such as the Freemasons may be incompatible with the requirement that planning inspectors should be fair open and impartial.” The government ban came in response to concerns expressed by the Home Affairs Select Committee that secret Freemasonic membership was inconsistent with accountable public positions.
Planning has traditionally been an area with a high concentration of Freemasons, and the granting of planning permission was deemed too subjective an area to allow secret networks of influence. However, in a written answer to a parliamentary question from Tony Baldry at the end of October, John Prescott stated that "the policy was incorrect and has been withdrawn".
The latest government backdown in the face of co-ordinated and well connected pressure from British freemasonry, suggest the Labour government are keen not to upset the UK 350,000 exclusively male Freemasons.
Over the last three years, the Home Affairs Select Committee - latterly under the chairmanship of the vociferous Chris Mullin MP - has been strongly recommending a public register of freemasonry membership, saying that public office was inconsistent with secret societies (See Select Committee Slams Secret Society in SQUALL Download No. 1). The Home Office have prevaricated on implementing the select committee's recommendations encapsulated in two committee reports, saying it prefers the option of waiting to see if Freemasons in the police, judiciary and criminal justice system would voluntarily declare their membership.
However, after two years of waiting, voluntary declaration has not taken place on any significant scale and the Home Office has been in no hurry to force the issue. John Prescott's latest U-turn now suggests that the issue is being buried and forgotten about.
Chris Mullin MP, who was made chairman of the Home Affairs select committee since the Labour government assumed power, was the main protagonist behind establishing a public register of Freemasons in public office. However, earlier this year Mullin was moved out of the post and made an environment minister with no brief to continue his work on Freemasonry. Despite strong recommendations from the Home Affairs Select Committee and initial promises from Home Secretary, Jack Straw, the issue now lies where the United Grand Lodge of Freemasonry always wanted it to go.… without a political champion, in limbo gathering moss.