10 NOVEMBER 2004
An address by the ME Pro First Grand Principal the Most Hon the Marquess of Northampton, DL
I have little to add to what I have said on previous occasions and what has been said today. I hope this new alternative ritual will be adopted by many Chapters, and that the spiritual message of the Royal Arch will be better understood as a result.
I would like to thank the members of the main Committee and the ritual sub-Committee for their deliberations over the past two years; E. Comp Richard Sandbach and others who played a major part in the creation of this alternative ritual and the Grand Scribe Ezra for his efforts in answering individually a very considerable number of letters from concerned Companions.
I would also like to thank the President and other members of the Committee of General Purposes and E Comp. Elkan Levy for their support culminating in the vote today. I have been very impressed by the contribution of the members of the Royal Arch and the obvious devotion they have for this unique Order. Companions, we must now concentrate our efforts on introducing those brethren who will be able to benefit from its profound message.
Companions, the President of the Board of General Purposes (BGP) of the Craft has asked me to make a statement on his behalf on the matter of asbestos in Freemasons' Hall.
Companions, Freemasons' Hall is nearly 75 years old. Built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to commemorate those who gave their lives in the First World War, there was a determination by the Building Committee that only the highest quality materials and latest technology would be used in its construction. Unfortunately for us today, one of the high tech materials much used at that period was asbestos, mainly as a lagging material.
In the summer of last year a problem was discovered under the floors of the balconies of the Grand Temple, and dealt with. The BGP commissioned an asbestos survey, and at the end of this September another major project was started, in accordance with current best practice, to seek out and remove any residual asbestos in the building. That work is being carried out by one of the leading specialists in the field under stringent safety conditions.
As part of those safety conditions, the normal air exchange and heating systems in the building have been switched off and temporary heating is being installed.
Constant tests have been, and will continue to be, carried out, and the levels of asbestos dust are significantly below the limits allowed by Health and Safety Regulations.
Although the work will take some time, well into next year, and will inevitably disrupt the normal routines of the building, plans have been made to keep that disruption to a minimum. However, Freemasons' Hall will unfortunately be closing a week earlier than usual at Christmas, as a stage in these works, and will remain closed during the first week in January.
Those Chapters and Lodges who are affected at that time will have to make arrangements with other venues, or change their date, and the Grand Secretary's office is already in touch with them and will do what it can to assist. Any dispensation fees that arise as a result will be waived.
Companions, there is no danger to anyone working in or using the building, but it is a legal requirement that we deal with the problem now. The atmosphere is being regularly monitored as part of the removal project, and although the work is complicated, disruptive, and, I am sorry to say, expensive, we shall, when it is all completed, have the satisfaction of knowing that we have fully complied with all the Health and Safety Regulations and the law.