Geoffrey de Freitas

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.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas

Geoffrey de Freitas (1966).jpg
Geoffrey de Freitas in 1966.
High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to Ghana
In office
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byArthur Snelling
Succeeded byHarold Smedley
Member of Parliament
In office
5 July 1945 – 20 December 1961
Preceded bySir Frederick Sykes
Succeeded byDick Taverne
ConstituencyNottingham Central (1945–50)
Lincoln (1950–61)
In office
15 October 1964 – 3 May 1979
Preceded byGilbert Mitchison
Succeeded byWilliam Homewood
Personal details
Born7 April 1913
St Lucia
Died10 August 1982(1982-08-10) (aged 69)
Cambridge, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Helen Graham Bell
ParentsSir Anthony de Freitas
Edith de Freitas
Alma materClare College, Cambridge

Family and early careerEdit

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 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.[citation needed]

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 Second World War he became a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force, but returned to politics in 1945, the family living at Loughton and then Cambridge.[citation needed]

Parliament and abroadEdit

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 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.[citation needed]

Notes and sourcesEdit


  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. ^ "No. 33295". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 July 1927. p. 4643.
  3. ^ De Freitas and McLachlan, NATO is not enough : two approaches to an Atlantic Assembly (1956)
  4. ^ "No. 42496". The London Gazette. 24 October 1961. p. 7697.
  5. ^ "No. 42546". The London Gazette. 22 December 1961. p. 9298.
  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 alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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