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Thursday, March 5, 1998 Published at 13:51 GMT


Masons under pressure to name names
image: [ Freemasons paraphenalia - but members names are not so public ]
Freemasons paraphenalia - but members names are not so public

The United Grand Lodge of Freemasons in England has been under pressure for months to provide the names of members involved in some of British justice's most serious scandals.

The Lodge's Grand Secretary, Commander Michael Higham, refused to name names when he appeared before a Commons select committee last month.

[ image: Commander Michael Higham: would not names names]
Commander Michael Higham: would not names names
Cmdr Higham accused the committee of mounting a "fishing expedition."

But the lodge's librarian and communications officer John Hamill said later it was "probable" they would comply with the committee's demands and hand over the names.

He said: "We would not wish to be in contempt of Parliament. We are a lawful and law-abiding organisation."

Cmdr Higham has told the committee he would only reveal members' names if they faced specific allegations of misconduct.

Committee chairman Chris Mullin MP wants the names of any members who were part of the disbanded West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad or the unit's investigation into the Birmingham Six pub bombings.

He also wants to know if masons were involved in the John Stalker disciplinary hearing, which forced the former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester to abandon his inquiry into an alleged shoot-to-kill policy being operated in Northern Ireland.

[ image: Masonic ritual is viewed with a mixture of suspicion and ridicule]
Masonic ritual is viewed with a mixture of suspicion and ridicule
Cmdr Higham said: "Masons face impending persecution and have a deep sense of anger at the slur on their integrity.

"We know we have a few bad apples and we take charge of them but the rest are jolly decent chaps."

Mr Mullin has warned Cmdr Higham he faces a contempt of parliament charge if he refuses to name members.

During the committee's hearings, it has emerged that seven freemasons were in the 97-strong West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, which was disbanded because of corruption.


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