Northumberland councillors face being forced to declare membership of 'secret societies'

County councillors and council staff in Northumberland will have to declare membership of ‘secret societies’ if a bid is successful next week.

By Ben O'Connell
Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 2:34 pm
Northumberland's County Hall at Morpeth
Northumberland's County Hall at Morpeth

A Labour motion to dissolve the council’s regeneration company, Advance Northumberland, fell foul of the 14-day deadline for motions.

Another motion by the group’s deputy leader, Cllr Scott Dickinson, has made it onto the agenda, calling for a resolution that ‘all employees and elected members must declare any membership of any organisation classed as a secret society, for example the Freemasons’.

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The motion adds: ‘Such a declaration must be made in writing and sent to the head of service who will record it in a departmental register(s) kept for that purpose.

‘The following information will be recorded in the departmental register(s): the name of the member of staff; the secret society of which that member of staff belongs.

‘The departmental registers are open for inspection by the chief executive and the director of finance.’

The text also sets out a definition of ‘secret society’ for the purposes of this motion:

‘Any lodge, chapter, society, trust or regular gathering or meeting, which is not open to members of the public who are not members of that lodge, chapter, society or trust; includes in the grant of membership an obligation on the part of the member a requirement to make a commitment (whether by oath or otherwise) of allegiance to the lodge, chapter, society, gather or meeting; and includes, whether initially or subsequently, a commitment (whether by oath or otherwise) of secrecy about the rules, membership or conduct of the lodge, chapter, society, trust, gathering or meeting.

‘A lodge, chapter, society, trust, gathering or meeting as defined above, should not be regarded as a secret society if it forms part of the activity of a generally recognised religion.’

Over the years, similar suggestions have been made in relation to other local authorities, the police and MPs, although there have also been concerns raised that compulsory registers could breach the Human Rights Act.

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