John Barnes, Historian

Sir Fredric Wise (1871 - 1928)

Only 56 when he died, Wise had made a considerable reputation for himself as an assiduous parliamentarian. He topped the list of those taking part in divisions in 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1925, and was only absent from one division (out of 426) in the period from February to August 1926. During the early part of the last session before his death his record was almost equally good. There were 313 divisions and he took part in 312. He scorned to take part in the "relay" system which the Whips Office had put in place because of the large Conservative majority. and his proud boast was that he had been absent from only two sittings of the House during his first five years in Parliament and that was because of a family bereavement. He would reserve his place at eight, breakfast, return to his place between 9.30 and 10.00 and remain in the House until the sitting was at an end. He was almost equally assiduous in attending on his constituents, believing that it was his business to be in his constituency every Friday evening to meet with any constituent who wanted to see him.

Not only was Wise a constant presence in the House, but he was a regular participant in financial debates, a strong advocate of drastic economies in public expenditure, and a member of both the Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee. He was one of those foremost in the campaign launched by Backbenchers in 1927 and a resolution in his name stood on the Order Paper, "That it is expedient that the expenditure of the country should be reduced not only to render an increase in taxation unnecessary, but to admit a reduction of the present large amount of taxation". He also contributed regularly on financial subjects to the correspondence columns of The Times. That he was liked and respected in most quarters of the House says a good deal for him, and Sir John Marriott, chairman of the Estimates Committee, who knew him extremely well and served with him on the executive of the unofficial Economy Committee as well as on the Public Accounts Committee could write of him, without exaggeration, that "his knowledge of finance was equalled only by his modesty and his untiring industry". There was no more zealous or self-effacing Member in the House and it is clear that he was esteemed by all.

Fredric Wise was the elder son of Alexander Josiah Patrick Wise JP DL of Belleville Park, Cappoquin, Waterford and his wife, Julia, daughter of John Anthony Woods of Benton hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne. He was born on 16 August 1871 and educated at Marlborough College, afterwards studying abroad.

Wise started his working life in banking, joining Messrs Wood & Co in 1899, and he managed their Alnwick branch for three years. The firm was subsequently amalgamated with Barclays, but in 1903 Wise departed to found the firm of stockbrokers in Newcastle which became Wise, Speke & Co. His business took him all over the world.

During the First World War he volunteered to serve as the Chairman of Volunteers and Military Representative in Northumberland.. Later he worked in a voluntary capacity for the ministry of national service, the Ministry of Food and the Treasury, and in the spring of 1919 reported to the Peace Conference on the financial position of Germany.

Wise served as financial adviser to Lord Byng's Committee of the United Services Fund. He was a director of the Daily Express and of the Sudan Plantation Syndicate Ltd. He served as a Justice of the Peace and as a Deputy Lieutenant for Northumberland.

Elected to the House of Commons for Ilford in September 1920, he retained his seat in three General Elections, and became the Charter mayor of Ilford in 1926. He was knighted in 1924. When the first Labour Government came to power, he and Kingsley Wood tabled an early day motion of no confidence in their ability to represent the country because their avowed socialism had the support of no more than a third of the country. He gave evidence to the Colwyn Committee on the national Debt in 1924, which was critical of the floating debt and advocated the measure of debt conversion subsequently carried through by Churchill in the spring of 1925. Unsurprisingly he was a supporter of the Gold Standard. Among the economies that he argued for were the abolition of the Ministry of Transport, the Mines Department and the Department of Overseas Trade.

He married Lucy Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Thomas Wrightson Bart., MP of Neasham Hall, Darlington on 16 June 1904. They had two children, Patrick and Juliette.

Wise's exertions had taken such a toll on his health that he was unable to return to the House of Commons during the autumn of 1927. On Thursday 26 March 1928, he suffered a heart attack at his home, Holwell Court, Hatfield; although there was time to summon his family to his bedside, the attack proved fatal. An obituary appeared in The Times on 28 March and Marriott paid public tribute to him three days later.