some faith in people's honesty
April 20, 2005
A DASH of
surrealism has never seemed out of place in Welsh politics, but the
National Assembly is home to especially bizarre
Fearful that Wales'
fledging democracy could be subverted by Freemasons,
the founders of our devolved government obliged Assembly
Members to declare their membership in the secretive organisation
or face criminal prosecution.
Over the past three years,
however, this stipulation has been increasingly regarded as arbitrary,
unenforceable, and rather odd.
regalia and closed-door nature of Freemasonry
may seem quite sinister and subversive in the 21st century but, in the
absence of concrete proof it is a malign force in society, it is hard
to justify the Assembly's rules.
But rather than drop the
requirement to confess to being a Freemason,
Assembly Members will today vote of proposals
to force members to declare if they belong to private organisations
such as the Rotary Club and Cardiff
& County Club. The logic is that a litigious
Freemason would now be unable to prove his
society was the victim of discrimination. [Ed.~
Discrimination begins with and endures through Freemasonry]
that was truly fastidious about ensuring surgical standards of objectivity
might require modern legislators to record every instance they conversed
with a lobbyist. Most simple of all would be to place some faith
in the human capacity for honesty. [Ed.
~ Well why not be honest and declare membership of Masonry
if there is nothing
THE UK Competitiveness
Index makes grim reading for anyone looking for signs that Britain in
general and Wales in particular is a beacon
Its author, Dr
Robert Huggins of Sheffield University,
claims that more than half of the jobs created in Wales
since 1997 have been in the public sector.
This is a giant sector
upon which Wales depends for its education
and healthcare, but real prosperity will not arrive unless businesses
are able to get on with the task of making money.
The UK is the 17th most
competitive country in the world in which to do business. If innovation
is being dragged down, our nation's future can only darken.
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Clubs added to Assembly
Members' disclosure list
National Assembly yesterday passed a controversial
motion which places members of groups including Rotary International
and the Cardiff & County Club in the same
category as Freemasons.
must declare their membership in such private clubs and societies or
face investigation by the Standards
The legislation was introduced
to prevent the Assembly being prosecuted on
human rights grounds for discriminating against Freemasons.
During yesterday's debate
Conservative Assembly Member William Graham
asked for assurances that members of churches with specific membership
requirements would not be forced to reveal their religious affiliation.
who chairs the Standards Committee, said,
"I can't give you the assurances you are looking for... The rules
are the rules."
She said she expected that
the vast majority of religious groups would not fall into that category.
the Assembly Liaison Officer for the Evangelical
Alliance Cymru, later said, "If it transpires that
those Assembly Members who are members of
religious organisations will be forced to declare this fact or face
legal action then this seems intrusive and wholly at variance with the
values of a liberal society."
had earlier argued for the change in the rules on the grounds that the
reform would improve general transparency.
She said, "To put
this in context for colleagues, the point has been made that while Freemasonry
is required to be registered, there is no requirement for a member to
register their membership of the Ku Klux Klan."
Member Huw Lewis opposed the change in the rules and wanted
Freemasonry to continue to be singled out,
regardless of the risk of legal action. He said, "This chamber
is the voice of the people of Wales and not
the voice of the lawyers of Wales."
He said he was concerned
about Masonic influences on public life because
"there are actual oaths
of secrecy and that creates unease. The reality behind
it may not be sinister but the perception matters."
Provincial Secretary of the South Wales Eastern
Division of Freemasons, said he was shocked
by the attitude of Assembly Members. He
said, "What bothers me is the uninhibited bigotry... A
lot of the younger people seem to be directed rather than think for
While he welcomed the broadening
of the rules he regretted that it was the threat of a lawsuit which
had spurred the Assembly to action.
He said, "They are
not responding to any sense of fair play. They are trying to excuse
their decision because they say we were about to beat them over their
head with a big stick."
voted in favour of the changes by 37 votes to seven, with two abstentions,
thereby gaining the necessary two-thirds majority.