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Willey was educated at Johnston School and St John's College, Cambridge, and was called to the Bar in 1936. He worked as a barrister on the Northern Circuit. His political career as an activist for social justice and other left-wing causes began in the 1930s, when he was the keynote speaker welcoming returning International Brigade volunteers to Sunderland.
Willey was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Sunderland in 1945, when the Borough still sent two MPs to Parliament. In 1950 two-member constituencies were abolished and Willey was returned for the new constituency of Sunderland North, where he served until he retired before the general election of 1983.
Willey served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food from 1950 to 1951, and as Minister of Land and Natural Resources from 1965 to 1967. He opened the UK's first long-distance footpath, the Pennine Way, in 1965.
He served as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party from 1979 to 1981.
- The Times House of Commons 1945. The Times. 1945.
- The Times House of Commons 1950. The Times. 1950.
- The Times House of Commons 1955. The Times. 1955.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Frederick Willey
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
and Stephen Furness
|Member of Parliament for Sunderland
With: Richard Ewart
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Sunderland North
|Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party
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