Bernard Weatherill

Bernard Weatherill

name =The Rt Hon. the Lord Weatherill

caption =
birth_date = 25 November 1920
birth_place =London, England, United Kingdom
death_date =death date and age|2007|05|06|1920|10|08
death_place = Caterham, Surrey, UK
office = Speaker of the House of Commons
term_start = 11 June 1983
term_end = 27 April 1992
predecessor = George Thomas
successor = Betty Boothroyd
party = N/A

Bruce Bernard Weatherill, Baron Weatherill PC, DL (25 November 1920 – 6 May, 2007) was an English politician, and Speaker of the British House of Commons.


After attending Malvern College, he was apprenticed at age 17 as a tailor to the family firm Bernard Weatherill Ltd., Sporting Tailors of Savile Row He 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. [ 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 thimble in 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 epitaph to be "He always kept his word."

British Army

Enlisting as a private in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment of the British Army, a few days after the start of World War II, Weatherill was commissioned into the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in May 1941 and reached the rank of Captain three 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 Parliament on 15 October 1964 for Croydon North East as a Conservative. He became a party whip only three years later, and deputy Chief Whip six 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 [ 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 Harrison approached 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 Broughton was 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. [ [ "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 Question Time.

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 backbenchers and members of the opposition parties. He also enforced the rights of Parliament to be publicly [ told of government policies] before they were announced to the press or elsewhere. A portrait by [ Robin-Lee Hall] of Speaker Weatherill hangs in Portcullis House.

Life Peer

He stood down in 1992, and was made a life peer that 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 [ debate on the petition] .

He sat in the House of Lords as 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 1999 by stitching together the compromise that allowed a limited number of hereditary peers to remain as members.

In 2006, he became Patron of the Better Off Out campaign, calling for Britain to leave the European Union [] .

Personal life

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 London in 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 Bailiff and Searcher of the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. He resigned both of those offices at the end of 1998 in protest of the manner in which the Dean and Chapter dealt with terminating the employment of the organist [] . 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 Pakistan in 1993.

In 1994, he was named a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

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". [ [ Issue 50 - Page 8 ] ]

On the night of Sunday, 6 May 2007 he died at the age of 86 in the Marie Curie Community Hospice in Caterham, Surrey after a short illness. [ 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."


* [ Weatherill Papers]
* [ Obituary] , Lasting Tribute
* [ Obituary] Daily Telegraph


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