Geoffrey de Freitas

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Sir Geoffrey Stanley de Freitas, KCMG (7 April 1913 – 10 August 1982) was a British politician and diplomat. For many years a Labour Member of Parliament, he also served as British High Commissioner in Accra and Nairobi, and later as President of the Council of Europe.

Family and early career[edit]

Geoffrey de Freitas was the son of Sir Anthony and Lady (Edith) de Freitas.[1] Sir Anthony was Chief Justice of St. Vincent in Geoffrey's youth, and later of British Guiana,[2] having held a variety of legal and administrative posts in the British West Indies.

De Freitas was educated at Haileybury and Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a successful student and athlete, and was president of the Cambridge Union for a term.

Two years at Yale followed, with a Mellon Fellowship in international law, and in 1936 on the voyage home he met his future wife, Helen Graham Bell, a Bryn Mawr graduate and daughter of Laird Bell, a prominent Chicago lawyer and Democrat.

In 1938 they married, and lived in London where de Freitas was pursuing a career as a barrister, gaining political experience as a Labour councillor in Shoreditch, and co-leading a boys' club in Hoxton. During the war he became a Squadron Leader, but returned to politics in 1945, the family living at Loughton and then Cambridge.

Parliament and abroad[edit]

He beat the sitting Conservative MP for Nottingham Central in the 1945 election, and was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Clement Attlee. As Under-Secretary for Air he went to the United Nations Assembly at Lake Success in 1947. Some years later he would co-author a booklet on the subject of an Atlantic Assembly,[3] and he had a long-standing connection with the North Atlantic Assembly.

In the 1950 general election de Freitas became Member of Parliament for Lincoln. He was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and held a succession of front bench posts throughout the decade. For a while Betty Boothroyd was assistant to de Freitas and she remained a friend of the family. Geoffrey and Helen now had three sons and a daughter.

In 1961 de Freitas was nominated to be British High Commissioner to Ghana, and was knighted in October of that year.[4] He resigned his seat in the Commons on 20 December 1961, taking the sinecure of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.[5] He was the first Labour appointment to an important role in one of the newly independent former British colonies. In 1957 he had chaired a Hansard Society conference on parliamentary government in West Africa.[6] After Accra, he was briefly in Nairobi, as British representative supporting an attempt to build a Federation of East Africa which would include Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya.

In 1964 he was invited to stand for election to represent Kettering, then a safe Labour seat, and returned to England. There was no front bench role for him with Harold Wilson as party leader, but de Freitas led the Labour delegation to the Council of Europe in 1965 and was President of the Council from 1966–1969.

In 1971 his reluctance to be nominated for election as Speaker of the House of Commons led to a reappraisal of the system. From 1975–1979 Sir Geoffrey was a delegate to the European Parliament.

He retired from politics in 1979 and died three years later, in Cambridge, aged 69.

The autobiography he was writing with his wife, The slighter side of a long public life, was published in 1985.

Notes and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Anthony Patrick de Freitas, born in Grenada in 1869, died 1940
    Edith de Freitas, born Edith Maud Short in Chantilly, Grenada, married 1899
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 33295. p. 4643. 19 July 1927. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  3. ^ De Freitas and McLachlan, NATO is not enough : two approaches to an Atlantic Assembly (1956)
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42496. p. 7697. 24 October 1961. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42546. p. 9298. 22 December 1961. Retrieved 27 November 2007.
  6. ^ What are the problems of parliamentary government in West Africa?: the report of a conference held by the Hansard Society for Parliamentary Government at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, September 1957 under the chairmanship of Geoffrey de Freitas M.P (Hansard Society 1958)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Sykes
Member of Parliament for Nottingham Central
19451950
Succeeded by
Ian Winterbottom
Preceded by
George Deer
Member of Parliament for Lincoln
1950–1962
Succeeded by
Dick Taverne
Preceded by
Gilbert Mitchison
Member of Parliament for Kettering
19641979
Succeeded by
William Homewood
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Snelling
High Commissioner to Ghana
1961–1964
Succeeded by
Sir Harold Smedley
Political offices
Preceded by
Pierre Pflimlin
President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
1966–1969
Succeeded by
Olivier Reverdin