Lords on the Square
The Government has been quick to press for the 'outing' of freemasons in the police and judiciary. However it has ignored the influence of freemasonry on its own back-yard - the House of Lords.
 
 
There are more than 350,000 freemasons in this country. They exist in all walks of life, identify each other by the use of secret signs and words, and are pledged to help one another. Although Freemasons are bound by the rules of society, they are also under an obligation to form "a column of mutual defence" with their Brothers.

When the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee published its report on Freemasonry in 1997, it concluded that there was a widespread public perception that freemasonry could have an unhealthy influence on the Criminal Justice system, and recommended the setting up of public registers of members of the police, judiciary, and Crown Prosecution Service, who were masons.

The House of Lords also makes decisions which affect everyone's lives. And there is a small minority, who, because of their Masonic links, might be assumed to make decisions in favour of their fellow Masons, rather than the society they serve.

One could term it Peer pressure.

The aristocracy has long-standing connections with Freemasonry. So, it is not surprising to find hereditary Peers such as Lord Swansea, Lord Cornwallis, and the Marquis of Northampton playing lead roles in Masonic organisations.

These hereditary titles will disappear when the House of Lords is reformed. Some rarely attend the House of Lords. One, Lord Farnham, is an Irish Peer who has no right to sit in the House anyway.

However, there are other senior masons who are very influential Life Peers, such as Lord Millett, a Law Lord who heard the extradition case against the former Chilean dictator General Pinochet. General Pinochet himself is said to be a member of a Catholic secret society, the Order of the Knights of Malta.

According to the House of Lords guidelines on declaration of interests, Peers have a discretion to disclose their interests "if they consider that those interests may affect the public perception of the way in which they discharge their Parliamentary duties". Most members of the public would say that being a freemason would and does affect that public perception. However, although many lords make no secret of the fact that they are masons, few, if any have disclosed that fact in the House of Lords register of interests.

Chris Mullen MP, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee which looked into freemasonry, believes Peers should also disclose whether or not they are masons: "Any Parliamentarian who is a member of a secret society, or a society with secrets as the Freemasons prefer to style themselves, ought to disclose that membership," he says.

However, remarkably, the Government has no immediate plans to force Peers to disclose their Masonic interests in the Lords' register of members' interests.

I have identified more than 20 Lords who play a significant role in the running of the five most important Masonic organisations in Britain, namely the United Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Royal Order of Scotland, the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, and the elite (and highly secretive) Supreme Council 33° of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, which governs Rose Croix masons.

The main governing body of Freemasons in England and Wales, the United Grand Lodge of England, has close links to other Grand Lodges around the world. Many Lords act as ambassadors for the Grand Lodge on overseas visits. Others act as ambassadors on behalf of foreign lodges.

Again, strictly speaking, under the House of Lords rules, they do not have to declare the trips they undertake on Masonic business - even when the fares are paid for by the United Grand Lodge of England. And precisely what business is conducted by Freemasons on these overseas trips remains shrouded in mystery.

First published on Pete Sawyer's 'Assignments Unlimited' homepages May 1999. Updated August 1999.

 
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Here is an A-Z list of Peers with Masonic Interests:

Argyll, His Grace the Duke of

Aged 61 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Attended the House for one day in the 1997-98 session. Hereditary Master of Her Majesty's household in Scotland.Masonic interests: Worshipful Grand Sword Bearer of the Grand lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland.

Barnard, the Rt Hon the Lord

Aged 75 Cross bencher. Hereditary Peer. Landowner and cross-bencher. Former Lord Lieutenant of the County of Durham. His sister is the Lady in Waiting to the Queen Mother. Masonic interests: United Grand Lodge of England's Past Provincial Grand Master for Durham. Represents Turkey and Costa Rica at the United Grand Lodge of England. Visits to Turkey in April 1994 and April 1997 on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Belstead, The Rt Hon Lord

Aged 66 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk. A former leader of the House of Lords. Chairman of the Parole Board. Masonic interests: A Grand Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England (Junior Grand Warden).

Bledisloe, the Rt Hon the Viscount QC

Aged 64 Crossbencher. Hereditary Peer. Sits on the House of Lords European Community Select Committee and its sub-committee dealing with law and order. Director of Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers. Masonic interests: A Past Grand Officer of the United Grand Lodge of England (Senior Grand Warden).

Burnham, the Rt Hon the Lord

Aged 67 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Very Active. His elder brother was a former chairman of the Masonic Housing Association.Masonic interests: Director of the magazine Freemasonry Today, published by the United Grand Lodge of England's Provincial Grand Master for Buckinghamshire.

Burton, the Right Honourable the Lord

Aged 74 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Vociferous opponent of the Governments plans to set up registers of Freemasons. Masonic interests: The Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. A Sovereign Grand Inspector of the Supreme Council.

The Earl of Cadogan

Aged 61 One of the richest landowners in the country. His family controls Cadogan plc, with property in Central London estimated to be worth around 500 million. Member of the Jockey Club. His father, the late Earl of Cadogan, played a very active role in the affairs of the United Grand Lodge of England. Masonic interests: Visit to France in December 1990 on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Churston, the Rt Hon the Lord

Aged 64. Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Attended the House of Lord on two occasions in the 1997-98 session. A business associate of Viscount Chelsea's. Masonic interests: A Junior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Cornwallis, the Right Honourable the Lord

Aged 77. Crossbencher. Hereditary Peer. Attended the House of Lords on fourteeen days in the 1997-98 session. A long-time lobbyist on behalf of English apple and pear growers. On the Board of Trustees of Chevening, the 17th Century Kent mansion shared by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Deputy PM John Prescott. Declares a consultancy in the House of Lords Register of Interests. Local director of Royal & Sun Alliance. Masonic interests: Grand Steward of the United Grand Lodge of England. Represents the Netherlands and Belgium at United Grand Lodge of England. Visits to Belgium in March 1993 and March 1996 on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Darnley, the Rt Hon Earl of

Aged 57. Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Attended the Lords on four days during the 1997-98 session. Involved with the City of Birmingham Touring Opera and the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust. Local director of Royal Insurance. Masonic interests: Senior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Donegal, the Most Hon Marquis of

Aged 82 Conservative. Hereditary Peer.Masonic interests: Grand Master of the Masonic Order of Ireland. A Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Eglinton & Winton, the Rt Hon Earl of

Aged 59. Hereditary Peer. Attended the House of Lords for one day in the 1997-98 session. Banker and director of a number of investment trusts. Conservative. Masonic interests: Represents Scotland and Iceland at the United Grand Lodge of England. Visits to Norway in 1991, Scotland, in April 1995, and France, in December 1995, on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Elgin and Kincardine, the Rt Hon the Earl of

Aged 74 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Attended the House of Lords for 3 days during the 1997-98 session. Member of the Queens bodyguard for Scotland. Masonic interests: Deputy Grand Master and Governor of the Royal Order of Scotland. The Grand Master is by tradition the King of Scots and a place is always reserved for him at meetings. Perhaps one day soon the place will be filled again. Also head of the Royal Arch in Scotland.

Farnham, the Rt Hon the Lord

Aged 67 An Irish Peer and therefor not entitled to sit in the House of Lords. Fought a long battle to regain his seat. Director of the London Clinic and British Kidney Patients Association. Former director of merchant bank Brown Shipley and Provident Mutual Life Assurance. Lady Farnham is lady of the bedchamber to the Queen. Masonic interests: Very influential in the world of Freemasonry. Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. Deputy Grand President of the Grand Charity of Freemasons. Representative of Ireland at the United Grand Lodge of England Visits to Ireland in November 1992, France in December 1992, Denmark in September 1993 and May 1997, Portugal in October 1995, and Scotland in March 1995 and November 1998, on United Grand Lodge of England business. In 1986 Lord Farnham, along with Lord Lane (see below), helped establish a lodge for senior Metropolitan Police officers, called the Manor of St James.

Gough, the Rt Hon, the Viscount

Aged 57 Crossbencher. Did not attend the House of Lords last session. Member of the Queens body-guard for Scotland. Masonic interests: Visit to Ireland in June 1996 on United Grand Lodge of England business Gray, Lord Aged 67 Conservative. Hereditary Peer. Masonic interests: A member of the United Grand Lodge of England's External Relations and Premises Committees. Senior Grand Warden.

Lane of Horsell, Lord

Aged 74 Conservative. Former chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations and a former partner of city accountants BDO Binder Hamlyn. He was made a Lord in 1990. A non-executive director of Reliance Security and Christies auctioneers. Trustee of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust. Masonic interests: Lord Lane is at the forefront of plans to restructure the way in which the United Grand Lodge of England is administered. Visit to France in December 1991 on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Millett, Lord Justice

Aged 66 Crossbencher. A recently appointed Law Lord. At one time sat on a 2-man committee probing into Lloyds losses. He is currently re-hearing the case for the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, General Pinochet. Masonic interests: Sits on the Panel of the United Grand Lodge of England's Commission for Appeals Courts, which hears appeals against disciplinary proceedings against Masons.

Northampton, the Marquis of, DL

Aged 52 Did not attend the House of Lords last session. Nicknamed Spenny, the Marquis is the country's most well-heeled Buddhist. During the early 1990s he was involved in a protracted legal battle over the ownership of the Sevso Treasure of Roman silverware, now worth an estimated 70m. He has a keen interest in mysticism and has converted an old monastery in Islington into a spiritual learning centre, the Canonbury Academy. Married five times. Masonic interests: Assistant Grand Master and representative of the Grand Lodge of Italy at the United Grand Lodge of England. Visits to France, in December 1993, Greece, in May 1996, and Italy, in June 1996, on United Grand Lodge of England business.

Oxfuird, Viscount

Aged 64 Conservative. Active Hereditary Peer. Keen interest in Trade and Industry. Sits on several House of Lords Select. Committees. Non-executive Director of the Korea Liberalisation Fund. Masonic Interests: Senior Rose Croix Mason.

Shannon, the Earl of

Aged 74 Crossbencher. Active hereditary Peer. Married the lady to whom he had sold one of his own titles to. Keen proponent of environmental responsibility in business. Masonic interests: United Grand Lodge of England's Provincial Grand Master of Surrey.

Swansea, the Lord

Aged 74 Crossbencher. Active Hereditary Peer. Took the title at the age of nine. Chairman of the British Shooting Sports Council. In March 1997 he resigned the Tory whip in the House of Lords in protest at the Governments proposed gun laws. Vice-president, Inland Waterways Association. Honorary President of the Foundation for the Education of the Underachieving and Dyslexic and Patron of the Association of Certified Public Accountants International. Masonic interests: A 33 mason; Sovereign Grand Inspector, and one of nine members of the Supreme Council 33 of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the highest and most secretive Masonic governing body in the country. His Masonic title is Grand Captain General. He is a director of the company which owns the Supreme Council's headquarters in St James, London (HRH Prince Michael of Kent is an honorary member of the Supreme Council). He is also the United Grand Lodge of England's Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, Eastern Division, and the Royal Order of Scotland's Provincial Grand Master for South Wales. Will retire from the Supreme Council at the end of this month and will step down as Provincial Grand Master this year.

 
 
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