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I speak on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, who cannot be present today because this afternoon they are burying a young friend who was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I came to the House for the first time in 1983. Between 1983 and 1987 I had the privilege of serving under the speakership of Bernard Weatherill. I can honestly say that during that time Jack Weatherill was every bit a gentleman. He was very sympathetic, yet he was very strong. He had the strength and determination as the Speaker to control the House, but he had a sympathy for new Members who were trying to make their way and their mark in the House. That speaks much of him and the character of the gentleman.
Jack Weatherill was a great and distinguished parliamentarian who made his mark by becoming Speaker. I remember that he was not the choice of some of his colleagues, especially the Prime Minister at the time, but he certainly was the choice of the House and he had the confidence of the House. He not only allowed the House to hold the Executive to account, but defended the rights of Back Benchers and of the smaller parties, to which he gave an honoured place in the House.
Like many other hon. Members today, I salute the memory of Jack Weatherill and mourn his passing. To his wife, Lady Weatherill, and her family circle, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends I offer my sincere condolences.