Bernard Weatherill

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The Lord Weatherill
Weatherill as Speaker in 1989
Speaker of the House of Commons
of the United Kingdom
In office
16 June 1983[1] – 9 April 1992
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded byGeorge Thomas
Succeeded byBetty Boothroyd
Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons
Chairman of Ways and Means
In office
10 May 1979 – 11 June 1983
SpeakerGeorge Thomas
Preceded byOscar Murton
Succeeded byHarold Walker
Treasurer of the Household
In office
2 December 1973 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byHumphrey Atkins
Succeeded byWalter Harrison
Comptroller of the Household
In office
7 April 1972 – 2 December 1973
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byReginald Eyre
Succeeded byWalter Clegg
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
In office
17 October 1971 – 7 April 1972
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byJasper More
Succeeded byWalter Clegg
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
15 July 1992 – 6 May 2007
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Croydon North East
In office
15 October 1964 – 16 March 1992
Preceded byJohn Hughes-Hallett
Succeeded byDavid Congdon
Personal details
Bruce Bernard Weatherill

(1920-11-25)25 November 1920
London, England
Died6 May 2007(2007-05-06) (aged 86)
Caterham, Surrey, England
Political partyConservative (until 1983)
Other political
Lyn Eatwell
(m. 1949)
RelationsAlan Lovell (son-in-law)
EducationMalvern College
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1939–1946
Unit4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards

Bruce Bernard Weatherill, Baron Weatherill, KStJ, PC, DL (25 November 1920 – 6 May 2007) was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Speaker of the House of Commons between 1983 and 1992.


He was the son of Annie Gertrude (née Creak, 1886–1966) and Bernard Bruce Weatherill (1883–1962). He married Lyn Eatwell (born 1928) in 1949 and they had three children: Bernard Richard (born 1951), Henry Bruce (born 1953) and Virginia (born 1955). Weatherill was known as "Jack", while his twin sister (baptismal name Margery) was called "Jill".


Company logo of Bernard Weatherill Ltd

After attending Malvern College, he was apprenticed at age 17 as a tailor to the family firm Bernard Weatherill Ltd, Sporting Tailors, later of 5 Savile Row. He became Director (1948), Managing Director (1958), and Chairman (1967) of the business. After it merged with Kilgour French & Stanbury Ltd., Tailors in 1969, he became Chairman of the combined firm. He resumed his role with the company after his retirement from the House of Commons in 1992, as president until the firm was acquired by others in 2003. Some of the clothes he designed are in the Victoria and Albert Museum[2] and other museum collections.[3]

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."[4]

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.

British Army[edit]

Weatherill enlisted as a private in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry of the British Army a few days after the start of World War II. He was commissioned into the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in May 1941[5] and reached the rank of captain in 1943. He was attached to 19th King George V's Own Lancers, Indian Army, after being posted to Burma.[6]

While on active service, Weatherill spent time in Bengal, where he embraced the local culture, including learning Urdu and taking up meditation. In response to having witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, he became a vegetarian.[7]

Weatherill was discharged from the Army in 1946, having served for seven years.

Member of Parliament[edit]

He was elected Member of Parliament (MP) on 15 October 1964 for Croydon North East as a Conservative. He became a party whip three years later, and deputy Chief Whip six years after that. He was re-elected seven times for the same seat until his retirement in 1992.

From October 1971 to April 1973, Weatherill was Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household, an office usually held by a Government whip, as Weatherill then was. He wrote a letter (hand-carried by messenger, or sent by telegram) to the Queen at the end of each day the House of Commons met, describing the debates, reactions, and political gossip. His letters[8] are believed to have been more entertaining than the debates themselves. Weatherill is the most recent Speaker to have served in Government prior to the Speakership; his successors have all been longtime backbench MPs.

In 1979, Weatherill played a critical role in the defeat of the Labour government in a vote of confidence. As the vote loomed, Labour's deputy Chief Whip, Walter Harrison, approached Weatherill to enforce the convention and gentleman's agreement (otherwise known as pairing) that if a sick MP from the Government could not vote, an MP from the Opposition would abstain to compensate. Labour MP Alfred Broughton was on his deathbed and could not vote, meaning the Government would probably lose by one vote. Weatherill said that the convention had never been intended for such a critical vote that 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 moment's reflection, he offered that he would abstain, because he felt it would be dishonourable to break his word to Harrison. Harrison was so impressed by Weatherill's offer (which would have effectively ended his political career) that he released Weatherill from his obligation, and the Government fell by one vote.[9]

He was sworn of the Privy Council on 8 January 1980.[10]

Speaker of the House of Commons[edit]

He was 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 due to broadcasts of Prime Minister's Questions.

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 enforced the rights of Parliament to be publicly told of government policies before they were announced to the press or elsewhere.[11] A portrait of him by Robin-Lee Hall hangs in Portcullis House.[12][13]

Life peer[edit]

He stood down in 1992, and was made a life peer on 15 July 1992 taking the title Baron Weatherill, of North East Croydon in the London Borough of Croydon.[14] As is customary for former Speakers, the government put before the House of Commons an address to the Queen, asking that Weatherill be appointed a peer as a mark of "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.[15]

He sat in the House of Lords as a crossbencher, the convention for former Speakers, irrespective of their previous party affiliation.

In 1993, he was elected alternate Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, 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.[16]

In 2006, he became Patron of the Better Off Out campaign, calling for Britain to leave the European Union.[17]

Personal life[edit]

He became a Freeman of the City of London in 1949, and of the London Borough of Croydon in 1983.

In 1989, he succeeded 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 at the manner in which the Dean and Chapter dealt with terminating the employment of the organist.[18] He was succeeded by Sir Roy Strong.

He was Vice-Chancellor of the British charitable Order of St John from 1983 to 2000, and was a knight of the Order 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.

He was a member of the European Reform Forum.

Weatherill was an advocate of vegetarianism and appeared at the first Vegetarian Rally in Hyde Park in 1990, 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".[19]

In 2005, he announced he was suffering from prostate cancer. On 6 May 2007, he died at the age of 86 in the Marie Curie Community Hospice in Caterham, Surrey, after a short illness.[20]

Bernard Weatherill House, council offices in Croydon, is named after him.[21]

He married Daphne Eatwell in 1949: the couple had three children:

  • Bernard Richard Weatherill, QC (1951–2021)
  • Henry Bruce Weatherill (b. 1953)
  • Virginia (b. 1955), who married the businessman Alan Lovell and lives at the Palace House, Bishops Waltham[22]


Coat of arms of Bernard Weatherill
A horse rampant Argent supporting a mace erect Or.
Azure a cross floretty Or surmounting two lances in saltire Proper flying from each a forked pennon per fess Gules and Argent.
Dexter a captain in the 19th King George V's Own Lancers (Indian Army) sinister a Knight of Justice of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem both Proper.
A Stitch In Time[23]


  1. ^ Journals of the House of Commons (PDF). Vol. 240. p. 4.
  2. ^ "Suit – Bernard Weatherill". Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  3. ^ "London College of Fashion collection". Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  4. ^ Tributes: Lord Weatherill, House of Lords, Tuesday, 8 May 2007
  5. ^ "No. 35186". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 June 1941. p. 3314.
  6. ^ Army career.
  7. ^ Warry, Richard (5 September 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn and other famous vegetarian politicians". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Bernard Weatherill Papers". University of Kent. Retrieved 17 January 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ The Night the Government Fell (BBC archive on the 1979 vote of confidence, audio interview of Weatherill and Harrison). BBC Parliament. 25 March 2004. Retrieved 26 November 2019 – via BBC News.
  10. ^ "No. 48059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1980. p. 287.
  11. ^ "Taking on Prime Minister Thatcher". BBC News. 24 December 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Artwork – Speaker Bernard Weatherill". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Lord Weatherall". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  14. ^ "No. 52994". The London Gazette. 20 July 1992. p. 12176.
  15. ^ "Mr. Speaker Weatherill (Retirement)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 19 May 1992. col. 156–161.
  16. ^ "House Of Lords Bill - Tuesday 11 May 1999 - Hansard - UK Parliament".
  17. ^ "Supporters". Archived from the original on 8 February 2008.
  18. ^ Morgan, Christopher (20 December 1998). "Ex-Speaker to quit abbey over dean's conduct". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 17 January 2018 – via
  19. ^ "Young Indian Vegetarians". No. 50. p. 8. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  20. ^ "Ex-Speaker Lord Weatherill dies". BBC News. 7 May 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Bernard Weatherill House". EPR Architects. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  22. ^ Macalister, Terry (6 September 2007). "The Friday interview: Alan Lovell". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  23. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2003. p. 1646.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Croydon North East
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of Ways and Means
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Preceded by Convenor of the Crossbench Peers
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
Succeeded by
Preceded by Comptroller of the Household
Succeeded by
Preceded by Treasurer of the Household
Succeeded by