Sir Geoffrey de Freitas
|High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Ghana|
|Prime Minister||Harold Macmillan|
|Preceded by||Arthur Snelling|
|Succeeded by||Harold Smedley|
|Member of Parliament|
5 July 1945 – 20 December 1961
|Preceded by||Sir Frederick Sykes|
|Succeeded by||Dick Taverne|
|Constituency||Nottingham Central (1945–50)|
15 October 1964 – 3 May 1979
|Preceded by||Gilbert Mitchison|
|Succeeded by||William Homewood|
|Born||7 April 1913|
|Died||10 August 1982 (aged 69)|
|Spouse(s)||Helen Graham Bell|
|Parents||Sir Anthony de Freitas|
Edith de Freitas
|Alma mater||Clare College, Cambridge|
Family and early career
Geoffrey de Freitas was the son of Sir Anthony and Lady (Edith) de Freitas. Sir Anthony was Chief Justice of St. Vincent in Geoffrey's youth, and later of British Guiana, 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 an athlete, and president of the Cambridge Union Society. 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 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
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, 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. He resigned his seat in the Commons on 20 December 1961, taking the sinecure of Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. 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. 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 de Freitas 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
- Obituary of Geoffrey de Freitas in The Times (13 August 1982)
- Who was Who
- Obituary of Helen de Freitas in The Independent (17 December 1998)
- Anthony Patrick de Freitas, born in Grenada in 1869, died 1940
Edith de Freitas, born Edith Maud Short in Chantilly, Grenada, married 1899
- "No. 33295". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 July 1927. p. 4643.
- De Freitas and McLachlan, NATO is not enough : two approaches to an Atlantic Assembly (1956)
- "No. 42496". The London Gazette. 24 October 1961. p. 7697.
- "No. 42546". The London Gazette. 22 December 1961. p. 9298.
- 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)
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Geoffrey de Freitas
- Council of Europe: Picture of Sir Geoffrey de Freitas in 1966
- Council of Europe: Former Presidents of the Parliamentary Assembly
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir Frederick Sykes
| Member of Parliament for Nottingham Central
1945 – 1950
| Member of Parliament for Lincoln
| Member of Parliament for Kettering
1964 – 1979
Sir Arthur Snelling
| High Commissioner to Ghana
Sir Harold Smedley
| President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe