- Bernard Weatherill
name =The Rt Hon. the Lord Weatherill
25 November 1920
London, England, United Kingdom
death_date =death date and age|2007|05|06|1920|10|08
Caterham, Surrey, UK
office = Speaker of the House of Commons
11 June 1983
27 April 1992
predecessor = George Thomas
party = N/A
Malvern College, he was apprenticed at age 17 as a tailorto the family firm Bernard Weatherill Ltd., Sporting Tailors of Savile RowHe later became Director (1948), then Managing Director (1958), then Chairman (1967) of the firm. After it merged with Kilgour French & Stanbury Ltd., Tailors in 1969, he became Chairman of the combined firms. He resumed his role with the company after his retirement from the House of Commons in 1992, serving as President until the firm was acquired by others in 2003. [http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1211_sixties/od_wetherill_page.htm Some of the clothes he designed] are preserved in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Following his mother's advice, he always carried his tailoring
thimblein his pocket as a reminder of his trade origins and the need for humility, no matter how high one rises. He said that he desired his epitaphto be "He always kept his word."
Enlisting as a private in the
Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light InfantryRegiment of the British Army, a few days after the start of World War II, Weatherill was commissioned into the 4th/7th Dragoon Guardsin May 1941 and reached the rank of Captainthree years after that. He was attached to 19th King George V's Own Lancers, Indian Army, after being posted to Burma. After seeing the Bengal Famine of 1942, he became a vegetarian. A year after the end of the war, he was discharged, having served for seven years.
Member of Parliament
He was elected a
Member of Parliamenton 15 October 1964for Croydon North East as a Conservative. He became a party whip only three years later, and deputy Chief Whipsix years after that. He was reelected seven times to the same parliamentary seat until his retirement in 1992.
From October 1971 to April 1973, Weatherill was Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household. This office is usually held by a Government whip, as Weatherill then was. As Vice-Chamberlain, he wrote a letter (hand-carried by messenger, or sent by telegram) directly to the Queen at the end of each day the House of Commons met, describing the debates, reactions, and political gossip of the day. His [http://library.kent.ac.uk/library/special/html/specoll/weavcroy.htm letters] are believed to have been more entertaining to the Queen than the debates themselves.
In has recently been revealed that in 1979, Weatherill played a critical role in the defeat of the Labour government in the vote of confidence. As the vote loomed, Labour's deputy Chief Whip,
Walter Harrisonapproached Weatherill to enforce the convention and "gentleman's agreement" that if a sick MP from the Government could not vote, an MP from the Opposition would abstain to compensate. The Labour MP Alfred Broughtonwas on his deathbed and could not vote, meaning the Government would probably lose by one vote. Weatherill rightly said that the convention had never been intendend for such a critical vote that literally meant the life or death of the Government, and it would be impossible to find a Conservative MP who would agree to abstain. However, after a moments reflection, he offered that he himself would abstain, because he felt it would be dishonorourable to break his word with Harrison. Walter Harrison was so impressed by Weatherill's offer - which would have effectively ended his political career - that he released Weatherill from his obligation, and so the Government fell by one vote on the agreement of gentlemen. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/3565551.stm "The Night the Government Fell"] , BBC archive on the 1979 vote of confidence, audio interview of Weatherill and Harrison]
Elected as Speaker
He served as the 154th Speaker of the House of Commons from 1983 to 1992. As Speaker at the time television cameras were first allowed to cover proceedings in the House of Commons, he became widely known throughout the English-speaking world due to the regular international rebroadcasts of Prime Minister's
He was the last speaker to wear a wig while in the chair. He commented that the wig is a wonderful device that allows the speaker to pretend not to hear some things. He presided over the House with wit and humour, always honouring the traditions of the House and protecting the rights of
backbenchersand members of the opposition parties. He also enforced the rights of Parliament to be publicly [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3321291.stm told of government policies] before they were announced to the press or elsewhere. A portrait by [http://www.commissionaportrait.com/artistsportfolio.asp?id=33&page=1 Robin-Lee Hall] of Speaker Weatherill hangs in Portcullis House.
He stood down in 1992, and was made a
life peerthat same year, as Baron Weatherill, of North East Croydon in the London Borough of Croydon. In an unusual move, the government put a petition before Parliament to be addressed to the Queen, asking that Weatherill be appointed a peer as a "Royal Favour". Given a rare opportunity to discuss constitutional arrangements relating to the monarch and the Upper House, left-wing members of Parliament forced a [http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199293/cmhansrd/1992-05-19/Debate-1.html debate on the petition] .
He sat in the
House of Lordsas a crossbencher.
In 1993, he was elected alternate
convenor of the crossbenchers, and was a convenor from 1995 until 1999.In the House of Lords he made a major contribution to the House of Lords Act 1999by stitching together the compromise that allowed a limited number of hereditary peersto remain as members.
In 2006, he became Patron of the
Better Off Outcampaign, calling for Britain to leave the European Union [http://www.betteroffout.co.uk/sup01.htm] .
He was the son of Bernard Bruce Weatherill (1883–1962) and Annie Gertrude Weatherill (nee Creak) (1886–1966). He married Lyn Eatwell (1928–) in 1949 and they had 3 children: sons Bernard R., QC (born 1951) and H. Bruce (born 1953) and daughter Virginia (born 1955). Weatherill was known as "Jack", while his twin sister (baptismal name Margery) was called "Jill".
He became a Freeman of the
City of Londonin 1949, and of the Borough of Croydon in 1983.
He was a member of three City of London
Livery Companies: the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, and the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers.
He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1980.
In 1989, he succeeded the Lord Blake as
High Bailiffand Searcher of the Sanctuaryof Westminster Abbey. He resigned both of those offices at the end of 1998 in protest of the manner in which the Dean and Chapterdealt with terminating the employment of the organist [http://wabbey-affairs.tripod.com/ST5.htm] . He was succeeded by Sir Roy Strong.
He was Vice-Chancellor of the British charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem from 1983 through 2000, and was a knight thereof from 1992.
An Urdu-speaker, he was decorated with the
Hilal-i-Pakistan(Crescent of Pakistan, second class) by the government of Pakistanin 1993.
In 1994, he was named a Deputy Lieutenant of
Lord Weatherill was a member of the
European Reform Forum.
Weatherill also became a vegetarian after one of his trips to
India. He became a strong advocate for vegetarianism and appeared at the very first Vegetarian Rally in Hyde Park, alongside Tony Benn. He once stated; "as a life long vegetarian I believe that since man cannot give life he has no moral right to take it away". [ [http://www.youngindianvegetarians.co.uk/Newsletter/Issue050/Page_08.htm Issue 50 - Page 8 ] ]
On the night of Sunday,
6 May 2007he died at the age of 86 in the Marie CurieCommunity Hospice in Caterham, Surreyafter a short illness. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6632713.stm Ex-Speaker Lord Weatherill Dies] ]
"The penalty that good men pay for failing to participate in public affairs is to be governed by others worse than themselves."
"A good speech will not be remembered; a bad one will never be forgotten — or forgiven."
"The greatest enemy of freedom is apathy."
* [http://library.kent.ac.uk/library/special/html/specoll/weaintro.htm Weatherill Papers]
* [http://www.lastingtribute.co.uk/famousperson/weatherill/2561858 Obituary] , Lasting Tribute
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1550854/Lord-Weatherill.html Obituary]
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