Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 140-158)



  140. But it was not met.
  (Ms Rowe) It was not met on that occasion. I am trying to see if I have the relevant figures here or not.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I see the point absolutely. It is important to us that we do pay our bills on time, particularly where you are dealing with small suppliers. We do have statistics about this actually, I have not got them with me, about how well we are performing. I am sorry to do this but if I could let you have a note that indicates why the target was not met and what our achievement rate actually was, I think that would be the best way to help the Committee.

  141. One thing the Home Office said was even if a target was dropped that it would be reported on in future years because otherwise one would just come up with a new set of targets every year. It would be nice to see the Department reporting upon how it is paying its invoices and how quickly and how small businesses are being affected, even if it is not an official target.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I accept that. Just making the comment that we had in earlier discussion, the issue of reporting on past targets, even if they do not have them any more for performance, is a good thing but at the same time we want also to simplify and clarify the presentation. I think there may possibly be an issue here between the difference between what is sensible to put in the departmental report—this is not a decided view—and what we make available to the Committee for its investigation into the performance of the Department.

  142. With respect, I think it would be good if every Department had this as a best practice target about paying invoices on time.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I agree.

  143. So that it goes into the public domain so that small business organisations can see how you are getting on as well.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I was not commenting on that specific point, I agree with that. I do think there is an issue about the presentation of reams and reams of figures and targets in these reports which is worth looking at.
  (Ms Rowe) Can I just make a point on that. There is a target for every government department and we do report through the Office of Government Commerce. I suspect the figures may appear in a report that they produce.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) We will give you a note and explain this. I am sorry about that.[6]

  Mr Cameron: Thank you very much.


  144. One final point: freemasons, disclosure by magistrates and members of the judiciary who are members of the secret society. Where are we up to?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Where are we up to? We are up to a continuing reasonable story to tell both in relation to the judiciary and the magistrates on a voluntary basis. For serving magistrates we know that 4.6% of the total of serving magistrates are Masons, 88% gave us information, only 12% refused on conscience grounds to respond to the survey.[7]

David Winnick

  145. That is magistrates, is it?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) This is magistrates.


  146. On what grounds?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) On conscience grounds. That is what I am told. The position is that all new magistrates are required to answer the question on the application form and all first-time part-time and full-time appointees to judicial office are required also to indicate whether they are Masons or not. We have not had a problem so far with anyone refusing to do so.

  147. At that stage they do not have a conscience because they know they will not get the job if they do not answer the question but this conscience develops later on once they have been in the job, is that right?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I take it from what you are saying, Chairman, you rather approve of what we have done.

  148. I do approve of what you have done although personally I would go a step or two further. Let me put it to you: those who decline to respond perhaps you ought to publish the names. It is openness we are talking about here, there is nothing wrong with being a Freemason—it is just nobody wants to talk about it.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) We are taking the view that as far as serving judges or magistrates are concerned, as this was not a condition when they joined, we should do it on a voluntary basis and that remains, I think, the Lord Chancellor's view. As for publication or access, ministers have not decided that yet, they are still thinking about it.

  149. This is the longest piece of thinking.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) It is a very difficult matter. There is an issue about whether to do that would actually be an unreasonable interference in someone's right to privacy in this area and that has to be taken into account. I am not saying that is a conclusive view, I am saying the factors are the balance in favour of openness on the one hand against individual rights on the other against the background that at least in relation to the magistracy and the judiciary we have a system that is working and has been fully observed by all new entrants, which I think is satisfactory.

  150. Have you got some figures for the declarations by new entrants?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) I have not got numbers for new entrants. What I know is there have been no problems in the sense that no-one has refused to make the declaration, but I can send you the numbers.

  151. Would you send us a note?8
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Ever since the compulsory requirement has been in place.

8 See Ev 52-3.

  152. Since the new system came in.
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes.

  Chairman: Thank you.

David Winnick

  153. That is magistrates but as regards other judicial positions from the highest to the less high positions, judges and so on, the new entrants, are they required to give an answer whether they are Freemasons or not?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Yes, they are. All new entrants to the full-time or part-time judiciary at whatever level are so required and we have had no-one yet who has refused.

  154. Where existing magistrates have refused to answer on the grounds of what is described as "conscience", is there any follow-up where the Lord Chancellor's Department writes back and suggests that since others have answered the question there is no reason why they should not?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) We have not done that, to my knowledge. The survey which I was referring to, as the Chairman knows, was conducted in 1998. We asked people to do it on a voluntary basis, we thought that was right at the time. Certainly I am willing to consider discussing this again with the Lord Chancellor to see whether we should do a further survey and ask those who had not responded then whether they are prepared to because 88% of their colleagues have.

  155. Of magistrates?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Of magistrates. I prefer not to make a decisive conclusion on that but to take that away with me and have a look at it.

  156. Others in judicial positions who have refused to answer the question, have you got any figures on that?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) As far as the judiciary are concerned, as of 30 September 1999 86% had disclosed they were non-Masons, that is the main figure I have got. I do not think I can give you any more information than that at the moment.

  157. So it is much the same as magistrates?
  (Sir Hayden Phillips) It is very much the same sort of rate of response from serving judiciary on a voluntary basis. I take the point you are making both in relation to magistrates and I assume to the other judiciary. I will go back and have a word with the Lord Chancellor about it.


  158. Thank you, that is fine. Sir Hayden, Ms Rowe, Mr Magee, thank you very much for coming along, you have been extremely helpful.

  (Sir Hayden Phillips) Thank you.

6   See Ev 52. Back

7   According to earlier figures, 86% of Magistrates replied giving their Masonic status in 1998; 2.4% did not disclose and 11.4% did not reply. The figure of 88% represents the current figure for the serving magistracy who have disclosed; the remaining 12% is made up of those still serving who chose not to disclose previously and those who did not reply. These figures are subject to revision in the light of further analysis. Back

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