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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 17:31 GMT 18:31 UK
Ex-Speaker Lord Weatherill dies
Lord Weatherill
Lord Weatherill began his career as a tailor

The former Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Weatherill, has died at the age of 86.

The peer served as speaker from 1983 to 1992, and oversaw the introduction of television cameras into the chamber.

Lord (Bernard) Weatherill died at the Marie Curie Community Hospice in Caterham, Surrey, on Sunday night after a short illness.

His son Bruce Weatherill, who informed the BBC and the House of Lords, said: "We will all miss him greatly."

Even temper

BBC political correspondent Guto Harri said Lord Weatherill was widely admired for his fairness, even temper and support for backbenchers' rights.

I don't know what this place is coming to, Tom, they've got my tailor in here now
Tory MP, overheard by Lord Weatherill

Bernard Weatherill - widely known as Jack - was educated at Malvern College before being apprenticed into the family's Saville Row tailoring business.

He served in the Indian Army during World War II and rose to the rank of captain.

He was elected to Parliament as Conservative MP for Croydon North East in 1964 - a seat he held until his retirement in 1992.

The then-prime minister, Baroness Thatcher, tried to block his election to the post of speaker, and his private papers released in 2003 revealed their behind-the-scenes rows.

Although Lord Weatherill was a Tory MP, in the Lords he was convenor of the crossbench peers and his father was a member of the Independent Labour Party.

Tributes were being paid to him on Monday from across the political spectrum.

'Awkward squad'

Prime Minister Tony Blair described him as "a real gentleman, someone of immense courtesy and kindness who was an outstanding Speaker and will be missed by people from all parties".

Lord Heseltine, the former Tory deputy prime minister, said: "He was a popular Speaker and a good one."

Lord Tebbit, the Tory peer and former party chairman, described him as "one of life's gentlemen".

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, an ex-Father of the House of Commons, said: "Albeit he once called me 'the platoon sergeant of the awkward squad', I rated him in the very highest league of Speakers, partly because he resisted pressure from Margaret Thatcher, and was fair to those with dissenting opinions.

"He was superb in being host to people from developing countries, particularly Asians as he spoke Urdu."

Lord Weatherill told MPs of the time he was mocked by Tory grandees for his former profession before his maiden speech.

"I was so frightened I must tell the House that I spent most of it locked away in a room not a million miles from this chamber," he recalled.

"And my confidence was not increased when I heard a familiar voice say to one of his friends: 'I don't know what this place is coming to, Tom, they've got my tailor in here now.'"

He was also the last Speaker to conduct business in a wig, saying it allowed him to hear selectively.

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