Search

Motion asking Freemasons to declare interest “would be unlawful” claims legal boss

PUBLISHED: 13:27 21 July 2018

The Masonic Lodge, Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

The Masonic Lodge, Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

Norfolk County Council has been warned that requiring Freemasons to declare their membership could be “unlawful”.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour, Great Yarmouth, General Election 2017. Photo: George RyanMike Smith-Clare, Labour, Great Yarmouth, General Election 2017. Photo: George Ryan

As members prepare to debate a motion asking just this, the United Grand Lodge of England’s head of legal services has written to the council’s leader, Andrew Proctor, advising that the council could be fined if it is carried.

In an open letter to Mr Proctor, Donald Taylor has warned the motion, which was raising by Labour councillor Mike Smith-Clare, would be 
in breach of the Humans 
Rights Act.

He said: “Freemasons are welcome to disclose their membership voluntarily and are obliged to disclose their membership where a specific conflict of interest could arise.

“However, the proposed motion if passed would impose an unlawfully wide obligation on Freemasons.

“The United Grand Lodge of England encourages Freemasons to acknowledge their membership, but advises them that they are not obliged to comply with unlawful disclosure requirements.”

Mr Smith-Clare said the motion had been designed to maximise transparency among county councillors,

He said: “Suffolk moved to make it a requirement last year. I think transparency is so important in local government and I don’t want Norfolk to be an anomaly in that sense.

“I’m not kicking at the Freemasons at all, it’s about making sure people know more about their councillors, who they are and what they do.”

Mr Taylor, however, argues passing the motion would see the council in breach of both the Human Rights Act and data protection laws.

He said that in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that singling out Freemasons for special treatment “was both discriminatory and unnecessary in modern democracy”.

Tom Garrod, county councillor for the Wroxham division said he had no reservations with declaring his membership, but that he felt 
the organisation was being singled out.

He said: “I have no problem with it – if I was not proud to be a Mason, I would not be one.

“However, it is no different to being a member of the Lions or Rotary clubs, so I don’t really see why we should be treated any differently.”

The motion goes before Norfolk County Council on Monday.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Dereham Times. Click the link in the yellow box below for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years, through good times and bad, serving as your advocate and trusted source of local information. Our industry is facing testing times, which is why I’m asking for your support. Every single contribution will help us continue to produce award-winning local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Thank you.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Dereham Times