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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 15:10 GMT
Freemason policy review due
freemason graphic
The Welsh Assembly could be about to announce a U-turn over its tough policy on freemasons declaring their membership.

Two years ago, the assembly became the only body in the UK to place a legal requirement on membership declaration of the men-only organisation.
Welsh Assembly chamber
AMs voted on the freemason declaration in 1999

The assembly's standards of conduct committee meets on Wednesday to reconsider the requirement and could recommend it is cancelled.

The policy was agreed by AMs two years ago - following public consulatations - in a bid to prevent "undue influence" being used in the assembly.

The decision was ushered in under the leadership of the then Assembly First Secretary Alun Michael.

But Hugh Johns of the Masonic Province of South Wales claims that freemasons will now fall into same category as trade union members, who do not declare their membership.

In April, prominent freemasons complained the policy of compulsory declaration was illegal.

The organisation turned to the new Human Rights Act to challenge the decision.

Freemasonry symbols
There had been concerns of 'undue influence'

Presiding officer Lord Elis-Thomas has previously received complaints about the policy.

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 standards of conduct committee in April that Wales had waited 300 years for some sort of parliament.

But he complained that one of its first acts was "imposing a 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.

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.

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.

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
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