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Secret Societies (Registration of Membership) Bill

This is the text of the Secret Societies (Registration of Membership) Bill, as presented to the House of Commons on 17th January 2001.

Secret Societies (Registration of Membership) Bill
1.Public bodies and registers.
2.Duty to register membership of a secret society.
3.Definition of secret society.
5.Short title, commencement and extent.





Require that a person elected to public office shall register with the public body to which he has been elected his membership of any secret society.

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-

Public bodies and registers.     1. - (1) The public bodies to which this Act applies are-
    (a) the House of Commons;
    (b) the National Assembly for Wales; and
    (c) local authorities.
      (2) Each public body to which this Act applies shall make appropriate arrangements to-
    (a) maintain a register ("the Institutional Register of Secret Societies") for the purposes of this Act; and
    (b) subject to subsection (3), ensure that the register is available at its principal office for public inspection without charge.
      (3) In subsection (2), "appropriate arrangements" includes-
    (a) the appointment of an officer of the public body in question, to be called the registrar, to be responsible for the receipt of information to be recorded in the register and for the maintenance of the register; and
    (b) such arrangements as shall be prescribed by the Secretary of State by regulations, which regulations shall make provision-
      (i) governing the period for which information is to be maintained on the register, provided that such information shall be maintained on the register for no less than 5 years from the date on which the information in question was entered on the register; and
      (ii) for the registrar to notify each person to whom this Act applies, in writing and within a prescribed time, of that person's obligations under section 2 and of the period of compliance therewith.
      (4) Regulations under subsection (3) shall be made by statutory instrument, and each such statutory instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
Duty to register membership of a secret society.     2. - (1) A person elected to a public body to which this Act applies shall, on or before the expiry of the period of compliance specified by regulations made under section 1(3), inform that body's registrar whether or not he is a member of a secret society, and, if he is a member of a secret society, of the name of that society.
      (2) Where a person who is a member of a secret society has complied with the provisions of subsection (1) but then ceases to be a member of that society, he may at any time inform the registrar in writing of that fact, and the registrar shall include the information on the register.
      (3) Any person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with the requirements of subsection (1) shall be liable to a fine of level 5 on the standard scale.
Definition of secret society.     3. For the purposes of this Act, a "secret society" means any lodge, chapter, society, trust or regular gathering or meeting which does not form part of the activity of a generally recognised religion and which-
    (a) is not open to members of the public who are not also members of the said lodge, chapter, society or trust, or persons permitted by reason of their identity to attend the gathering or meeting; and
    (b) includes in the grant of membership or permission to attend an obligation on the part of the member or person seeking permission to attend a requirement to make a commitment (whether by oath or otherwise) of allegiance to the lodge, chapter, society, trust, gathering, meeting, or to a person (actual or imagined) or a symbol (spiritual or temporal); and
    (c) includes in the said grant or permission, whether initially or subsequently, a commitment (whether by oath or otherwise) to secrecy about the rules, membership or conduct of the said lodge, chapter, society, trust, gathering or meeting; and
    (d) does not make available, freely and publicly on demand, a full list of the members of the said lodge, chapter, society or trust or of the attendees at gatherings or meetings.
Expenses.     4. There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any increase attributable to this Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other enactment.
Short title, commencement and extent.     5. - (1) This Act may be cited as the Secret Societies (Registration of Membership) Act 2001.
      (2) This Act shall come into force at the expiration of the period of three months beginning with the day on which it is passed.
      (3) This Act extends to England and Wales only.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 28 March 2001