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Masons 'should not have to declare their membership'.

THE most senior freemason in South Wales has defended the secretiveness of Wales' 13,000 masons.

Provincial Grand Master Gareth Jones said the members of the order should not be forced to declare their membership.

He was responding to calls made by the South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner on S4C's Y Byd ar Bedwar for more openness.

Alun Michael argued it should be compulsory for all public servants, whether police officers, council officials or politicians, to declare if they are freemasons.

But Provincial Grand Master Jones said it was "a little offensive" for anyone to be instructed to declare their membership.

"I see no reason at all why individuals should have to declare membership of freemasonry," he told Y Byd ar Bedwar.

"I and my members in South Wales are happy to tell people that we're freemasons and celebrate that. I think it's the fact that one is being instructed to declare one's freemasonry that is a little offensive."

He said the society "makes good men better men" and is striving to become more open and transparent. Although the masons allowed S4C cameras to film ceremony rehearsals, the ceremonies themselves were outof-bounds.

He said: "The very small number of secrets we still have are simply modes of recognition. There is nothing sinister or mysterious about these. They are part of the play that candidates go through."

Mr Michael was First Secretary of the National Assembly when a law was implemented making it compulsory for AMs to declare membership of the society if elected.

As a minister in the Home Office at Westminster, the former MP also made police officers who were members declare, although this law was later challenged and overruled.

He said declaring membership of any society increases transparency and quells conspiracy theories.

He added: "If freemasons don't disclose, you can get whisperings of wrongdoing. Declaring gets rid of all that."

" Public bodies have different policies on staff or members declaring membership of the masons.In Westminster, MPs don't have to disclose membership. In Cardiff Bay, AMs are expected to declare but no current member has done so.

In local authorities, the rules are unclear, with policies varying between authorities. Just 25 councillors across Wales have stated they are members.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Gwent Police have no requirement for staff to declare membership of the freemasons but both North Wales Police and South Wales Police operate a voluntary disclosure system. South Wales Police told Y Byd ar Bedwar that two officers and three civilian support staff have declared membership.

Mr Michael said: "It would be best to have one common system for local authorities, police force and health boards. Only then can we ensure everybody is being treated equally.

| Y Byd ar Bedwar is on tonight at 9.30pm on S4C.

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 9, 2016
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