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Tributes (Speaker Weatherill)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:14 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 12:14 pm, 10th May 2007

I, too, am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to Lord Weatherill.

As many have already said, Jack Weatherill was not just an esteemed parliamentarian but a true gentleman. He served his country throughout his life. As a soldier during the war, he served in the Dragoon Guards and in the Indian army with the 19th King George V's Own Lancers. It was during his time in India that he learned to speak Urdu. During the 1942 famine, he became a lifelong vegetarian. Later, as we know, he served the constituents of Croydon, North-East from 1964 until 1992, after which he continued to serve his country in the other place. Between his service in the Army and Parliament, he worked as a tailor in the family business that his father established.

Jack Weatherill was, in many senses, the embodiment of the changes to the world, politics and Parliament that took place in the last century. As the Leader of the House mentioned, he was the last Speaker to wear the traditional wig and the first Speaker to see television cameras in the Chamber. At a time when we all talk a great deal about connecting Parliament with the public, we would do well to remember Jack Weatherill, who was determined that Parliament should be as relevant to the real world as possible. He said that it was his absolute intention to ensure that everything that went on in our nation was exposed in our House. That is not a bad motto for us all to remember today.

I am sure that many hon. Members are familiar with the story that shortly after Jack Weatherill was elected, he overheard an elderly grandee complain, "My God, what is this place coming to? They've got my tailor in here." However, he was very proud of his background. As you said in your tribute on Tuesday, Mr. Speaker, he used to carry a thimble with him to keep him humble, to use his words. That was a mark of the man.

Jack Weatherill was indeed a fine parliamentarian. As Speaker, he was a resolute defender of the rights of Back Benchers, which was not always easy in the face of his own party in government. However, in all that he did, he won respect and high regard from Members on both sides of the House. He was a devoted churchman and a loyal family man. I am sure that the whole House will want to send condolences to his wife, Lyn, and his three children and seven grandchildren. We will all remember Lord Weatherill as a great parliamentarian, a fine Speaker and a gentleman who spent his life serving his country.