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Tributes (Speaker Weatherill)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:47 pm on 10th May 2007.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Chair, Parliamentary Labour Party 12:47 pm, 10th May 2007

On behalf of the whole parliamentary Labour party, I want to join in the tribute to Jack Weatherill and offer our sympathy to his family.

I first entered Parliament in 1983, at the time that Speaker Weatherill first took the Chair. I echo the remarks that have been made. It was obvious that, as Speaker, he had command of the House, particularly when it was a little buoyant, a little excited and a little excitable. He controlled the House well on those occasions, but it is right to say that he was also a man with a great sense of justice. He recognised that the Speaker of the House had a responsibility not only to the great and the mighty, but to the relatively humble, particularly those who were new in the House.

I recall that, new as I was and coming from a local government background, when I made one of my early speeches I addressed the Speaker as "Mr. Mayor". That was probably at 9.30 at night, when there were few Members present, so only a small ripple went round the Chamber. At the end of my speech the Speaker called me over, looked at me sternly and said, "Mayor? Not at all." I thought that was terrible. Then, with a smile, he said, "I wouldn't aspire to those dizzy heights."

That is a minor footnote among all that has been said, but it conveys the humanity of the man, who understood what it was like to be new and perhaps over-awed by this place, and therefore what it was like for someone in the position of Speaker to bring on and encourage those who needed it. In the end, it is the humanity that has come across today and in the various obituaries that we have all read, which is the mark of a man who was a good, sound parliamentarian, a very good colleague and a good advertisement for what we as a democratic Parliament should be about.