BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Wales
Front Page 
World 
UK 
England 
Northern Ireland 
Scotland 
Wales 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Freemasons fight assembly register
freemason graphic
Freemasons have complained that the Welsh Assembly's policy of compulsory declaration of membership could be illegal.

The organisation claims it is being discriminated against and has said it is ready to call on the new Human Rights Act to challenge the assembly's decision.

The matter was raised with the assembly's standards of conduct committee by senior lodge officials on Wednesday.

Freemasonry symbols
There had been concerns of 'undue influence'
The policy of registering membership - following concerns about "undue influence - was approved by AMs two years ago following public consultations.

But presiding officer Lord Elis-Thomas has since received complaints.

James Bevan, the Provincial Grand Secretary of the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Wales, said the policy contravened the Human Rights Act 1998, which came into force in October 2000.

He told the committee that Wales had waited 300 years for some sort of parliament and one of its first acts was "imposing Masonic Welsh knot around our necks".

"We are hoping that common sense will prevail here and that we will get fair play down at the assembly," said Mr Bevan.


There was widespread consultation and enormous public support for the clause

Helen Mary Jones AM
John Hamill, from the United Grand Lodge of England, said no evidence had been produced to show the general public perceived freemasons as using the organisation to advance themselves.

Mr Hamill added that such actions were against Masonic rules.

The challenge by freemasons has received support from within the assembly.

"It always seemed a curious thing that AMs had to register membership, when MPs and members of the Scottish Parliament do not," said Tory AM William Graham.

'Undue influence'

But Llanelli AM Helen Mary Jones, who sat on the committee which set up the regulations, said: "I am sure the standards committee will give a full and proper hearing to the case.

"There was widespread consultation and enormous public support for the clause asking members to record whether or not they were Freemasons."

Ms Jones said there had been concerns in the past about undue influence, particularly in areas like the police service.

Police officers voluntarily log their membership, but are encouraged to do so.

Labour AM Christine Gwyther said there was public concern about freemasons because they had existed "in the shadows" for so many years.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

12 Oct 00 | Scotland
Call to uncover freemason judges
22 May 00 | Wales
From freemasonry to e-masonry
04 Aug 99 | UK
Freemasons take PR tips
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Wales stories