City of London Standards Committee Freemasonry discussion substandard?

The Standards Committee of the City of London council discussed Freemasonry on 3 February 2017 as item 3 on its agenda:

The Town Clerk reported that, at the Committee’s request she had now made further enquiries with the Remembrancer’s Department to ascertain how the use of the Guildhall Crypts by the Masonic lodges was approved and on what grounds they received preferential rates. The Committee were informed that applications for use of the Crypts by the Masonic lodges were submitted to the Remembrancer as part of the non-Guildhall use report and that the Chief Commoner was also consulted. Whilst the applications were submitted at ‘no user charge’ some lodge meetings did incur additional costs and were charged accordingly. The Town Clerk added that she had been informed that the lodges received preferential rates on the basis that they had clear City of London/Member links.

A Co-opted Member questioned whether the decision to grant usage of the Crypts to the masonic lodges was recorded publicly in any way. He stated that he was concerned about the potential external perception of this and the fact that it might be viewed as an unrecorded benefit. He stated that he would like to ask the City of London to strongly consider this and any associated reputational risks going forward.

A Member reported that the City’s Finance Grants Sub Committee regularly received details of all benefits in kind for review. He added that there was therefore the opportunity for Member challenge at this stage.

The Chairman suggested that the Committee convey their concerns to the Remembrancer and encourage him to consider making this decision in the public domain going forward and how best this might be done. The Deputy Chairman reported that use of the Great Hall was approved by the Hospitality Working Party who, in turn, reported up to the Court of Common Council on this. He added that use of other parts of the Guildhall complex were not so widely reported but suggested that this could perhaps be pursued under delegated authority in consultation with the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the Hospitality Working Party and the Policy and Resources Committee. He also asked that a note of this discussion be sent to the next meeting of the Hospitality Working Party given that the use of Guildhall was within their remit. A Co-opted Member suggested that a key issue here would be whether or not the Guildhall Crypts were a public or private space.

This and the other material here are quoted from Public reports pack 19052017 1130 Standards Committee, which can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/g18077/Public%20reports%20pack%2019th-May-2017%2011.30%20Standards%20Committee.pdf?T=10

The same document contains the following declarations of interest by members, and reproduced here are all – i.e. every one – of the declared interests from item 2 of the minutes:

Deputy Ingham Clark declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to agenda Item 3 (Minutes of the Previous Meeting), stating that he was a member of the Guildhall Lodge.

Mr Hayward declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the same item, stating that he was currently Assistant Secretary of the Guildhall Lodge and, as such, would be taking no part in any subsequent discussion on this matter at today’s meeting.

Mark Greenburgh declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the same agenda item, stating that he was a Freemason.

This document lists the following people as being present. Members: Oliver Lodge (Chairman), Edward Lord (Deputy Chairman), Nigel Challis, Mark Greenburgh, Christopher Hayward, Deputy Jamie Ingham Clark, Dan Large, Alderman Sir Alan Yarrow. Also Present: Chris Taylor – Independent Person. Officers: Gemma Stokley – Town Clerk’s Department, Michael Cogher – Comptroller and City Solicitor, Edward Wood – Comptroller and City Solicitor’s Department.

On his declaration of interests on the City of London council website, chairman Oliver Arthur Wynlayne Lodge includes in his list of non-pecuniary interests the following: ‘Member, United Grand Lodge of England’ and ‘Member, Guildhall Lodge’. Given that both these listed lodges are Masonic, it is more than peculiar that the chairman’s activities as a Freemason are not recorded as a declared interest in item 2. Particularly since the Guildhall Lodge meets in the Guildhall, and it was specifically the use of the Guildhall by Masonic lodges that was under discussion. The two members who declared that they were members of this lodge – Hayward and Ingham Clark – were presumably aware that their chairman also belonged to it and should have declared it as an interest.

Deputy chairman Oliver Lord has a long declaration of interests on the council website, and under non-pecuniary interests he includes: “Member Freemason’. Again this interest does not appear under item 2 in the minutes, and it ought to be there since it seems Lord should have declared it. Lord (OBE) is currently also listed as chairman of the United Grand Lodge of England Universities Scheme Committee. The deputy chairman of the same committee is Mark Greenburgh, so it seems likely he is also the individual with the same name sitting on the Standards Committee. Among the various vice-chairmen of the Masonic committee under discussion is Dan Large. Again it seems likely that it is the same Dan Large on both this Masonic committee and the Standards Committee of the City of London. See: http://www.universitiesscheme.com/index.php/about-the-scheme/committee

So if the publicly available minutes of the Standards Committee for the City of London council are reliable, what we have is a body that is charged with ensuring proper governance whose most senior members failed to make a declaration of interest when it would seem it was incumbent upon them to do so. And it would seem probable that other members of the committee would have been aware that declarations of interest were not being made when it seems they should have been. If this is the case then the Standards Committee is more than just substandard, it is not fit for purpose. And let’s not forget that beside the chair and the vice chair, Dan Large may also be a Freemason who failed to declare this interest.

Since the men involved were Freemasons, the subject under discussion was Freemasonry, and the majority of the committee present seem to belong to this fraternal organisation, potential external perceptions include a reinforcement of the widespread view that Freemasonry is sinister and conspiratorial. It should be clear from what we’ve written elsewhere that we do not view Freemasonry as an issue as regards Chris Hayward – and others – sitting on the Planning Committee; the fact Hayward is a property developer is far more problematic with regard to that. Nonetheless, it is clearly unacceptable to have the chair and deputy chair and a high number of members of the Standards Committee being Freemasons; because when the subject comes up for discussion – as it did at this meeting – what transpires can appear improper. How the committee felt able to discuss Freemasonry at all in this instance requires both further investigation and detailed explanation from at least some of those present.

Pippa Henslowe.

NOTE: The Wikipedia entry on Edward Lord contains a section on Freemasonry, which when I checked consisted of the following: “Lord is a freemason and is a Grand officer and chairman of the Universities Scheme of the United Grand Lodge of England. He is a Member or Honorary Member of the following Masonic lodges and groups: Honor & Generosity Lodge No. 165/Phoenix Lodge No. 173/Farringdon Without Lodge No. 1745 (also Royal Arch Chapter)/Duke of Fife Lodge No. 2345/Lodge of Good Fellowship No. 3655/City of London Lodge of Installed Masters No. 8220/Metropolitan Grand Stewards Lodge No. 9812/The Iron Bridge Lodge No. 9897/Universities Lodge of Staffordshire No. 9907/Grafton Lodge of Mark Master Masons No.415/Freemasons’ Grand Charity.”

To further clarify the matters addressed above, Mark Greenburgh and Dan Large appear to be co-opted members of the Standards Committee. They are not City of London councillors and it is not clear to us if they have voting rights. Likewise, we don’t know whether they have registered their pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests. Someone from either the Standards Committee or the City of London council might like to clarify this for us in the comments below.

Former Lord Mayor and current City of London councillor Sir Michael Bear has to date been less than forthright about whether the ‘Grand Charity Society’ listed on his declaration of interests is in fact the Freemasons’ Grand Charity; and if so whether he is a Freemason. We addressed this in a previous post.

 

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