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Tributes (Speaker Weatherill)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:23 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 12:23 pm, 10th May 2007

Like Mrs. May, and indeed the majority of Members of the House, I am afraid that I did not have the privilege of serving in this House while Lord Weatherill was Speaker, but I had the great privilege of meeting him, in rather odd circumstances, soon after I was elected. We were both at Farleigh Hungerford castle in my constituency on a cold December evening to celebrate the life of Sir Thomas Hungerford, the first recorded Speaker of the House. I suspect that he was a very good Speaker of a very bad Parliament. Indeed, it was dubbed "the bad Parliament" because it introduced cash for favours and the poll tax, so it was very bad indeed.

When I met Lord Weatherill on that bitterly cold night in Farleigh Hungerford castle's chapel, which had not been heated since the 14th century, and which was therefore not the most congenial of surroundings, what struck me first was his stoicism under the circumstances. He also gave the impression of being a kind, courteous man. He was interested in me as a new Member in a way that he had no need to be. He also struck me as a punctilious parliamentarian. He did not have to be in Somerset on a cold December evening, but he was there because, as a former Speaker of the House, he wanted to pay tribute to the first Speaker of the House, and he was there as a parliamentarian. The tributes that have been paid to Lord Weatherill all mention his fairness and assiduity in the post of Speaker and his preparedness to ensure that the people who make life difficult for Speakers, for Governments and for the Opposition were properly heard. That is the sort of testament that any Speaker would wish to hear. We Liberal Democrats send our condolences to Lady Weatherill, and we mourn the loss of a great parliamentarian.