Supplementary information given by the
Home Secretary relating to his evidence of 23 October (Q 102)
When I appeared to give evidence to the Committee
on 23 October you asked whether I had lead responsibility across
Government for the policy on openness as regards freemasonry.
I said I would write to you about this.
The history to this is that, after consultation
with the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, it was agreed
that the Home Office would take the lead in co-ordinating the
Government response to the Home Affairs Committee's first report
on freemasonry ("Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary")
published in March 1997. This particular arrangement related specifically
to the issue of freemasonry in the criminal justice system.
The written response to the Committee's second
report "Freemasonry in Public Life", made in July 2000
said that: "The Government believes it is best to complete
the exercise in the criminal justice system before turning to
other areas of public life". The arrangements for registering
freemasonry membership in the criminal justice system were to
be viewed as a testing ground. Lessons learned from the voluntary
arrangements put in place for the judiciary, magistracy and the
police could then be applied in considering arrangements for registration
across the wider public service.
You mentioned advice you received as a DTLR
Minister. I cannot comment on that, but I am firmly of the view
that it is for departmental Ministers to make judgements on how
to address concerns about freemasonry in the light of the circumstances
of a particular public service which they sponsor. It is of course,
open to them to take advice from the central departments which
have lead interest in the civil service management code and standards
in public life issues. My focus is on the police and prison services.
I do not regard myself as having wider policy responsibility on
this issue across-government and, as I indicated when I gave evidence
before the Committee, this is certainly not a role I would wish
to acquire, either by default or design.
9 November 2001