George Freeman
Official portrait of George Freeman MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation
Assumed office
17 September 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byAmanda Solloway
Minister of State for Transport
In office
26 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAndrew Stephenson
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences
In office
15 July 2014 – 15 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byNicola Blackwood
Member of Parliament
for Mid Norfolk
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byKeith Simpson
Majority22,594 (40.2%)
Personal details
Born (1967-07-12) 12 July 1967 (age 54)
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Political partyConservative
Alma materGirton College, Cambridge
Websitegeorgefreeman.co.uk

George William Freeman (born 12 July 1967) is a British Conservative Party politician, who has served as the member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Norfolk since 2010. He has served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation since September 2021.

Early life

Freeman was born on 12 July 1967 to jockey Arthur Freeman and Joanna Stockbridge.[1][2][3] His parents divorced soon after he was born, and he had no contact with his father until he reached adulthood, growing up as a ward of court.[1][4] Freeman would later buy at auction the trophy his father received as winner of the 1958 Grand National.[1]

He counts 19th-century Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone as his great-great-great-uncle, and Mabel Philipson as his great-aunt.[5][6][7] He was educated at Radley College and Girton College, Cambridge, graduating with a Geography degree in 1989.[3]

After university, Freeman worked in Westminster as a lobbyist for the National Farmers' Union.[8] Before entering Parliament, he had a career in biomedical venture capital.[8]

Political career

Freeman stood unsuccessfully in Stevenage at the 2005 general election. He was subsequently added to the Conservative A-List, and was selected for Mid Norfolk in October 2006.

Freeman was elected at the 2010 general election as MP for Mid Norfolk. The previous incumbent, Keith Simpson, contested the neighbouring Broadland constituency instead.

The Independent highlighted Freeman as one of a small number of MPs who claimed Parliamentary expenses for rent in London despite owning and letting out property in the city.[9]

Shortly after entering Parliament, Freeman was elected Chair of the All Party Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture. He was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Barker, in the Coalition Government's first tranche of appointments. In July 2011, Freeman was appointed Government Life Science Advisor.

At a 2011 Boxing Day hunt, he called for a review of the ban on hunting with dogs, calling it "class war against the countryside".[10] In the same year, he opposed holding a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union.[11] In 2013, Freeman opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage and supported military intervention in Syria.[12][13][14]

After a number of accidents on the A47 road in his constituency, Freeman campaigned for investment in safety.[15][16] The road was included in a programme of investment announced in December 2014.[17]

In 2014, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences at the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.[18] The role had not previously existed in any country.[7] Freeman was nicknamed "High Tech Hezza", after Michael Heseltine whose former office he occupied while minister.[7] During this role, Freeman was criticised by Labour opponents for describing use of prosecutions to enforce the minimum wage as "the politics of envy".[19] In 2015, he asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to establish an enquiry into disabilities caused by hormone pregnancy tests.[20]

Freeman is a co-founder of the 2020 Group of Conservative MPs, which he described as the "radical progressive centre ground" of the Conservative Party.[21]

In 2017, Freeman criticised a tribunal ruling that people with extreme anxiety who struggle to leave the house should have the same legal status as the partially sighted, saying that the former were not "really disabled". After criticism from opposition MPs, disability charity Scope, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, he said that he regretted if his comment "inadvertently caused any offence which was not intended", and that he did not "need any lectures on the damage anxiety does" after childhood experience of anxiety and depression.[22][23][24]

Freeman chaired the Prime Minister's Policy Board until his resignation in November 2017.[25] He warned the party not to be defined by "nostalgia, hard Brexit, public sector austerity and lazy privilege".[26] In September 2018, he called for Prime Minister Theresa May's resignation once a deal on the UK's departure from the European Union was secured through Parliament.[27] He said he would stand to be her successor if supported by his party, before ruling out the possibility shortly afterward.[28][29]

Freeman founded The Big Tent Ideas Festival in 2017. The Big Tent is a charitable foundation dedicated to creating space for non-partisan conversations about big policy issues and to giving a voice to places and people left behind, particularly focused on regeneration.[30]

In 2018 Freeman set up The Bridge of Hope, a charity that aims to "provide hope to those who have taken a stumble in life, through a meaningful, new career."[31]

At a party conference fringe meeting in 2018, Freeman described "his horror" being given £4.2 billion by the Treasury to computerise the NHS which was then still relying on paper records. He had not been invited to any of the meetings about the project, authorised by George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, and had received no clear directions on how it was to be spent.[32]

On 26 July 2019, at the beginning of the first Johnson ministry, Freeman was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Transport. He left government at the cabinet reshuffle in February 2020.

On 17 September 2021, Freeman returned to government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, during the second cabinet reshuffle of the second Johnson ministry.[33]

Freeman is a founder of 2020 Conservatives group and a member of Bright Blue's advisory board.

Personal life

Freeman was married to Eleanor from 1996 to 2016, and has two children.[3][34]

In 2020 Freeman married theatre director Fiona Laird.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ a b c Armytage, Marcus (17 December 2012). "National treasure finds its natural home as George Freeman MP stumps up for 1958 trophy". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. ^ "George Freeman MP". Democracy Live. BBC. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Who's Who. Ukwhoswho.com. Retrieved on 17 June 2011.
  4. ^ Freezer, David (5 October 2013). "Three Norfolk MPs left shocked after meeting foster carers". Norwich Evening News. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  5. ^ Mance, Henry (5 August 2017). "Tory activists plan Conservative answer to Glastonbury". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 August 2017. Mr Freeman — a descendant of the Liberal prime minister William Gladstone and a former biotechnology investor — said he envisions the Conservative Ideas Festival as a 'cross between Hay-on-Wye and the Latitude festival'.
  6. ^ Freeman, George [@GeorgeFreemanMP] (5 January 2018). "Yes this is my GreatAunt Mabel Philipson" (Tweet). Retrieved 20 May 2022 – via Twitter.
  7. ^ a b c Pagano, Margareta (24 July 2014). "George Freeman: Just the man for a matter of life and death". The Independent.
  8. ^ a b Armitstead, Louise (9 December 2012). "George Freeman unites science, business and NHS". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  9. ^ Brady, Brian (5 December 2010). "MPs who own London homes still claim rent". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  10. ^ Bishop, Chris; Bishop, Donna-Louise; Bareham, Dominic (26 December 2011). "Norfolk MP calls for review of Hunting Ban, as thousands attend Boxing Day meets". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  11. ^ "EU referendum: how the MPs voted". The Telegraph. 25 October 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  12. ^ Hardman, Isabel (5 February 2013). "MPs who voted against gay marriage: full list". The Spectator. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  13. ^ Eaton, George (21 May 2013). "Blow for Cameron as 128 Tory MPs vote against gay marriage". newstatesman.com. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  14. ^ Beattie, Jason (30 August 2013). "Syria: How did your MP vote in the Commons over military action?". Mirror Online. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  15. ^ Gretton, Adam; Walsh, Peter (17 June 2013). "Family's tribute to Sprowston motorcyclist killed in A47 crash". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  16. ^ George, Martin (10 October 2020). "Facebook appeal for blackspot action after man killed on A47 at Scarning, near Dereham". Norwich Evening News. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  17. ^ Graham, Georgia (1 December 2014). "£15 billion for road schemes: Where will they be?". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Battleground Anglia: Mid Norfolk". ITV News. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  19. ^ Dickson, Annabelle (3 March 2015). "Conservative MP George Freeman "politics of envy" comment provokes Labour outrage". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  20. ^ Carding, Nicholas (31 July 2015). "Mother searches for answers as inquiry is launched into disabilities caused by pregnancy tests". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  21. ^ Dominiczak, Peter (22 June 2014). "Tory plans for retired pensioners to retrain as teachers". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  22. ^ Worley, Will (26 February 2017). "Disability benefits should go to 'really disabled people' not 'anxiety sufferers', says Theresa May's adviser". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  23. ^ Stewart, Heather (27 February 2017). "May adviser regrets saying benefits should only go to 'really disabled' people". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  24. ^ "Disability benefits: PIPs should be for 'really disabled'". BBC News. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  25. ^ Bienkov, Adam (20 November 2017). "Theresa May's Policy Chief George Freeman Resigns". businessinsider.com. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  26. ^ Buchan, Lizzy (20 November 2017). "George Freeman: Head of Theresa May's policy unit resigns". The Independent. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  27. ^ McGuinness, Alan (13 September 2018). "Theresa May should sort Brexit deal and then go, former policy chief says". Sky News. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  28. ^ Porritt, Richard (14 September 2018). "Norfolk MP: 'I'll stand to be next PM'". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  29. ^ Grimmer, Dan (26 September 2018). "'I do NOT plan to stand' - Norfolk MP George Freeman rules out Conservative leadership bid".
  30. ^ "Big Tent Ideas Festival".
  31. ^ "The Bridge of Hope".
  32. ^ "MP's 'horror' at getting £4.2bn to digitise NHS with no plan". BBC News. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  33. ^ "Ministerial appointments: September 2021". GOV.UK. 16 September 2021.
  34. ^ Sylvester, Rachel (11 June 2016). "Philip Green should remember that with privilege comes responsibility: Tory business minister George Freeman sends a moral message to big corporate chiefs". The Times.