Lord Rea sits as a Labour peer having succeeded to the barony in 1981, aged 53, following the death of his uncle. Spending his childhood in both Britain and the United States, he attended Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a MA in natural sciences. He later became a Doctor of Medicine in 1969.
Rea served as Acting Sergeant in the Suffolk Regiment between 1946 and 1948 and held various hospital posts between 1954 and 1957. He was a research fellow in paediatrics in Ibadan and Lagos in Nigeria from 1962 to 1965, and a lecturer in social medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School from 1966 to 1968. He also worked as a general practitioner in North London from 1968 to 1993.
Rea is a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and is Honourable Secretary of the National Heart Forum. He supports the Mother and Child Foundation and the Caroline Walker Trust and is a member of Amicus, Healthlink Worldwide and the Mary Ward Centre.
The Rea Barony, of Eskdale in the County of Cumberland, was created in 1937 for Liberal politician and merchant banker Sir Walter Russell Rea, 1st Baronet.
Philip Rea, 2nd Baron Rea served as Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords from 1955 to 1967. He was President of the Liberal Party in 1955-1956 and later one of the Party’s vice-presidents, from 1970. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1962.
During the Second World War, the 2nd Baron served as a personal staff officer to Brigadier Colin Gubbins, The Head of SOE. His daughter, the Right Hon. Ann Felicity Rea, married SOE veteran Malcolm Munthe in 1945. Major Munthe was described by Sir Angus Ogilvy as ‘the last true English eccentric’.