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Tributes (Speaker Weatherill)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:29 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 12:29 pm, 10th May 2007

I am delighted to follow Mrs. Dunwoody in what she has said. To me, Jack Weatherill was, above all, a friend. Mr. Speaker, as you said in your tribute earlier this week, he was an excellent Speaker. He got to the Speaker's Chair not because he was the chosen representative of his party but because he was the person chosen by the House. I think that that indicates just how favourably Members from all parts of the House regarded Jack Weatherill. He was, as many of us know, deputy Chief Whip. He was, as you were, too, Sir, the Chairman of Ways and Means before achieving the highest office available to the House—that of Speaker.

Jack Weatherill was primarily a friend. He invited me to become a member of the Chairmen's Panel—a job that I have done ever since 1986, and which is a huge privilege as it enables people to serve the House and the institution of Parliament. He was a very personable man. I remember speaking in a debate on textiles. He was in the Chair, and during the debate, he arranged for a note to be passed to me. It just said:

"Nicholas, well spoken. You spoke from the heart and I agreed with you. I am pleased I was in the Chair when you spoke."

I think that that shows the personable nature of his relationship with Members from all parties in the House of Commons. He shared another common interest with me. He was very senior to me, and served for longer, but we were both members of a cavalry regiment. He greatly enjoyed his time in the Army, particularly, as has already been mentioned, his period in the Indian army. It is not wrong to say that he was indeed in every way an officer and a gentleman.

When Lord Weatherill left the House, he did me a great favour. He was involved with three City livery companies. I invited him to be my guest of honour at a major livery dinner of the Worshipful Company of Weavers of which, between 1997 and 1998, I was upper bailiff. He attended that occasion, and it indicates Jack Weatherill's loyalty to those organisations with which he was involved. He was a man who was greatly liked. As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich said, he had a wonderful wife, Lyn. She was a wonderful tennis player, and I remember many games on the tennis courts of Westminster school in Vincent square. Jack himself did not come and play, but Lyn was a wonderful tennis player and a huge supporter of Jack during his time as Speaker.

I hope, Sir, that I am permitted to say that Jack Weatherill was hugely kind to my wife, our elder boy and myself. The reception after the christening of our first grandchild was held in the Palace of Westminster in Mr. Speaker's State Apartments. Perhaps I should not have said that, as it may open the door to many approaches to you, Mr. Speaker, and I do not seek to do that. It shows the fact—it has not really been said so far in the tributes—that Jack was a real family man. Perhaps above all, to Jack Weatherill, whom we mourn—we send our condolences to Lyn, his wife and to his two sons and daughter—the House of Commons was his family; latterly the same was true of Parliament. He stood up for it. He was a great Speaker, and he will long be remembered.