HC Deb 28 June 1988 vol 136 cc198-202 3.37 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. In the interests of the happy procedures of the House, I want to raise this matter before we embark upon the ten-minute Bill. I understand that the Bill requires police constables to give information about their membership of freemasonry. Freemasonry involves a direct pecuniary interest and advantage to any member of the freemasons. I hasten to say that I am not a freemason.

If hon. Members have a direct pecuniary interest in a matter, they are not allowed to vote on it. This does not involve general legislation. Because the constables covered by the Bill could be members of the lodges of which hon. Members are members, there will be a direct link. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will listen to the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and conclude that hon. Members who are freemasons, but who are not, unfortunately, required to make a declaration to that effect, should stay out of the Division Lobby when the vote is taken, thereby avoiding any suspicion that they are voting for, or against, the Bill for their financial benefit.

Mr. Speaker

I think that we should wait to hear what is said in introducing the Bill. Like the hon. Member, I am not a mason. I understand that it is very difficult to find out who is a mason.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If you will not take the advice offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (M r. Cryer), perhaps the hon. Members concerned will roll up their trouser legs when they go into the Lobbies.

Mr. Speaker

I shall watch most carefully.

3.39 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I beg to move, That leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend the form of declaration for a constable prescribed by the Police Act 1964. The Bill is about freemasonry and the police, and would amend the service declaration that is made by a newly appointed police officer under schedule 2 to the Police Act 1964 by adding the words: I shall abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of my duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere. This amendment to the law, which I first canvassed m 1985, is designed specifically to stop practising freemasons from serving as police officers. The core of my objection is that the secretly sworn oath of allegiance between freemasons may conflict with the publicly declared loyalty of police officers to the community as a whole.

No condition can be allowed by which a police officer's loyalty can be divided. Freemasonry is a secretive organisation that encourages secret membership. Its members use secret methods of identification designed specifically so that non-members are left unaware of the connection between them. It is the duty of the police officer to enforce the law, to quote the service declaration, "without favour or affection". Police officers can succeed in that vital task only if they have the full confidence of the public that they are acting impartially.

Over the years, serious allegations have repeatedly been made that freemasons in the police force have received preferential treatment over appointments, promotion, disciplinary procedures and, most important, that they may not be impartially investigating criminal cases in which other freemasons are involved. Over many years my constituency mailbag, and recent public reaction to the case of Detective Chief Inspector Woollard have reflected widespread public anxiety over this issue.

Let me make it clear that my attack is not on the altruistic principles of freemasonry. It is often justifiably claimed that freemasons are responsible for many laudable charitable activities. I unreservedly accept and applaud that. However, I strongly believe that membership of that organisation in its present secretive form is inappropriate, not only for police officers, but also for the judiciary and for those responsible for public administration.

If freemasonry were to transform itself and shed its secrecy, exclusivity and oath of allegiance, I should have no objection to police officers being members. As things stand, however, police officers should not be freemasons, and those who are already members should resign either from the lodge or from the police force. It is one or the other; it cannot be both.

Over three years ago, Sir Kenneth Newman, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan police—and at that time the most important police officer in the country—made exactly the point that I make now. In the book "Principles of Policing and Guidance for Professional Behaviour", he and his colleagues identified the special dilemma of a police officer who is a freemason, and the conflict between his service declaration of impartiality and the sworn obligation to avoid any activity likely to interfere with impartiality or to give the impression that it may do so. Sir Kenneth went on to say: A freemason's oath holds inevitably the implication that loyalty to fellow freemasons may supersede any other loyalty. One who is already a freemason would also be wise to ponder from time to time whether he should continue as a freemason. That view was shared by Sir Kenneth's successor and by at least five other chief constables, who immediately issued similar advice and guidance. In response, freemasonry closed ranks. The new and powerful lodge of St. James was forged, made up almost exclusively of Metropolitan police officers, some say as an act of defiance and a calculated insult to the commissioner. Its tentacles ran deep, with strong Conservative connections.

Sir Kenneth's concerns were prompted by a long history of problems involving freemasonry in the police force. One example that he must have had in mind was Operation Countryman, in the mid-1970s, when over 250 police officers were forced to resign and many faced criminal charges after investigations revealed that police membership of particular lodges formed the nucleus of a criminal conspiracy.

If revelations of wrongdoing and insidious corruption are not enough, what about the worries of the sergeant on the beat passed over for promotion for a less experienced or less able but better connected colleague, the disciplinary complaint against an official inexplicably overlooked, or the drunken driver who is not breathalysed?

Today, masonic penetration of the police force appears to be greater than ever. A survey in 1981 revealed that an estimated 33 out of 50 chief constables were freemasons. It has been alleged that 50 per cent. of the active membership of the Police Federation are freemasons. The latest authoritative study suggests that as many as one in five of all policemen are masons. The author of that study concluded: An astonishing number of policemen are freemasons—out of all proportion with the population as a whole. I am told that in London alone at least four lodges are made up entirely of freemason policemen. Just what are they doing?

That brings me to the case of Detective Chief Inspector Brian Woollard. One must support his campaign against the unacceptable influence of freemasonry within the Metropolitan police. Woollard's career has clearly been ruined as a result of his diligent investigation of criminal conspiracy involving freemasonry—the career of a man with an outstanding record and picked out for high command. Woollard had received seven commendations. He had served at Downing street, at Buckingham palace, with the anti-terrorist squad, and with the elite public sector corruption squad. He had even served as personal protection officer to a former Home Secretary. He was a high flyer. The mistake that he made was to question a senior DPP official who showed an unprecedented interest in his case. Of course, that official turned out to be a freemason.

The authorities have not altogether written off the case. I understand that senior officers have been working on a report that shows that a high proportion of police above the rank of inspector are freemasons. There is a particularly strong concentration in certain CID squads, in personnel and in management departments generally. Even the Police Foundation, an advisory body to the Government, has commented on freemasons' "obsession with secrecy".

Regrettably, the problem is a national one and reaches as far as my constituency in Cumbria. I received a letter from a local police officer who said: You are quite correct when you say that policemen feel that impartiality is not always as it should be, but it could never be proved, as any example cited would obviously be met with an immediate denial from those in authority. I put those concerns to the then chief constable of Cumbria, Barry Price, and asked him to issue guidance of the sort recommended by Sir Kenneth Newman. I received the curt reply, "I won't."

Another policeman told me that Cumbria police force was riddled with freemasonry and that non-masons were often heard privately to complain. I should add that former Chief Constable Price was later reported to me to be a freemason. I should have realised earlier.

The parliamentary questions that I tabled in 1985 resulted in a vast mailbag. Commander Higham, grand secretary of the United Grand lodge of England and Wales, attempted to reassure me with a masterful euphemism. He said that his was not a secret organisation, but rather had a respectable inclination to privacy. When I tried to find out who or how many he represented, I was told that the information was not secret but "private".

Freemasonry is plagued with contradictions. It claims to be open to all, yet it bars women. It makes high moral claims, yet it offends the Church. It contains some of the most powerful and respected people in the land, yet subjects them to bizarre ritual that invites ridicule.

I argue that freemasons should not serve as police officers and that police officers should sever their links with their lodges. Their inter-tribal oath of loyalty is utterly incompatible with the duty to serve the whole community impartially. The secrecy of the organisation makes it impossible to check whether impartiality might be at risk in a particular case.

I submit that the police force is considerably damaged by its links with freemasonry. Good policemen are embarrassed. We all recognise that the police depend on the full co-operation of the public in solving crime. That co-operation depends in turn on trust and a belief in their impartiality. Undermine that trust, and one undermines the fight against crime. The police force is an important institution pledged to uphold the principles of an open, free and democratic society. We all support it. It is unhealthy that large numbers of its officers should be involved in an organisation whose practices are so entirely out of keeping with those principles.

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member have leave to bring in his Bill?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think that the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Who will prepare and bring in the Bill?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I shall put the Question again. Hon. Members must follow their voices. The Question is, That the hon. Member have leave to bring in his Bill.

Hon. Members


Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 117, Noes 16.

Division No. 384] [3.49 pm
Alton, David Dixon, Don
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dobson, Frank
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Doran, Frank
Ashton, Joe Eastham, Ken
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bermingham, Gerald Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Blair, Tony Fisher, Mark
Blunkett, David Flannery, Martin
Boateng, Paul Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Boyes, Roland Foster, Derek
Bradley, Keith Fyfe, Maria
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Galloway, George
Caborn, Richard Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Callaghan, Jim Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Canavan, Dennis Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Grocott, Bruce
Clay, Bob Haynes, Frank
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Heffer, Eric S.
Cohen, Harry Henderson, Doug
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hinchliffe, David
Corbett, Robin Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cryer, Bob Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howells, Geraint
Dalyell. Tam Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Primarolo, Dawn
Kennedy, Charles Quin, Ms Joyce
Leighton, Ron Reid, Dr John
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Richardson, Jo
Lewis, Terry Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Livingstone, Ken Rogers, Allan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Loyden, Eddie Short, Clare
McAllion, John Skinner, Dennis
Macdonald, Calum A. Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McFall, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McKelvey, William Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McTaggart, Bob Steinberg, Gerry
Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Martlew, Eric Turner, Dennis
Meacher, Michael Vaz, Keith
Michael, Alun Wall, Pat
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wareing, Robert N.
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Wigley, Dafydd
Moonie, Dr Lewis Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Morley, Elliott Wilson, Brian
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Winnick, David
Mullin, Chris Wise, Mrs Audrey
Nellist, Dave Worthington, Tony
O'Neill, Martin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Tellers for the Ayes:
Patchett, Terry Mr. Brian Sedgemore and
Pendry, Tom Mr. Nicholas Brown.
Pike, Peter L.
Alexander, Richard Janman, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Beggs, Roy Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Bendall, Vivian Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Woodcock, Mike
Farr, Sir John
Fearn, Ronald Tellers for the Noes:
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mr. Alan Meale and
Forth, Eric Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours, Mr. Max Madden, Mr. Austin Mitchell, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. Tony Lloyd, Mr. Bob Cryer, Mr. Nicholas Brown, Mr. Derek Fatchett, Mr. Roland Boyes, Mr. Brian Sedgemore and Mrs. Ann Clwyd.