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|The Right Honourable
The Baroness Boothroyd
|Speaker of the House of Commons|
27 April 1992 – 23 October 2000
|Prime Minister||John Major
|Preceded by||Bernard Weatherill|
|Succeeded by||Michael Martin|
|Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means|
11 June 1987 – 27 April 1992
|Preceded by||Paul Dean|
|Succeeded by||Janet Fookes|
|Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich West
28 February 1974 – 23 October 2000
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||Adrian Bailey|
|Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich
24 May 1973 – 28 February 1974
|Preceded by||Maurice Foley|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
8 October 1929 |
Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England
|Political party||Crossbencher 2001 onwards|
Labour Until 1992
Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd, OM, PC (born 8 October 1929) is a British politician, who served as a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich and West Bromwich West from 1973 to 1992. From 1992 to 2000, she served as Speaker of the House of Commons. She was the first, and to date, only female Speaker of the House of Commons. She sits, by tradition, as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords.
Boothroyd was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1929, the only child of Ben Archibald Boothroyd (1886–1948) and his second wife Mary, née Butterfield (1901–1982), both textile workers. She was educated at council schools and went on to study at Dewsbury College of Commerce and Art. In the 1940s, she worked as a dancer, as a member of the Tiller Girls dancing troupe.
During the late 1950s, she worked as secretary to Labour MPs Barbara Castle and Geoffrey de Freitas. In 1960, she travelled to the United States to see the Kennedy campaign. She subsequently began work in Washington as a legislative assistant for an American Congressman, Silvio Conte, between 1960 and 1962. When she returned to London she continued her work as secretary and political assistant to various senior Labour politicians such as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Harry Walston. In 1965, she was elected to a seat on Hammersmith Borough Council, in Gibbs Green ward, where she remained until 1968.
Running for the Labour Party, she contested several seats – Leicester South East in 1957, Peterborough in 1959, Nelson and Colne in 1968, and Rossendale in 1970 – before being elected Member of Parliament (MP) for West Bromwich in a by-election in 1973.
In 1974, she was appointed an assistant Government Whip and she was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1975 to 1977. In 1979, she became a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, until 1981, and of the Speaker's Panel of Chairmen, until 1987. She was also a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) from 1981 to 1987 and the House of Commons Commission from 1983 to 1987.
She became a Deputy Speaker in 1987. In 1992 she was elected Speaker, being the first woman ever to hold the position. There was some debate as to whether or not Boothroyd should wear the traditional Speaker's wig upon her election. She chose not to but also stated that any subsequent Speakers would be free to choose to wear the wig. In 1993, the Government won a vote on the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty due to her casting vote (exercised in accordance with Speaker Denison's rule). However, it was subsequently discovered that her casting vote was not required, as the votes had been miscounted and the Government had won by one vote. She was keen to get young people interested in politics, and in the 1990s even made an appearance as a special guest on the BBC's Saturday morning children's programme Live & Kicking.
On 12 July 2000, she announced in a statement to the House of Commons that she would resign as Speaker after the summer recess. Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, paid tribute to her as "something of a national institution". Blair's predecessor, John Major, described her as an "outstanding Speaker". She resigned as Speaker and as an MP (by the device of the Chiltern Hundreds) on 23 October 2000.
Boothroyd was chancellor of the Open University from 1994 until October 2006 and has donated some of her personal papers to the University's archives. She is an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. In March 1995, she was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University. Boothroyd has also been given an Award of Doctor of Civil Law honoris causa by City University London (1993).
On 15 January 2001, she was created a life peer, taking as her title Baroness Boothroyd, of Sandwell in the County of West Midlands, and her autobiography was published in the same year. In April 2005, she was appointed to the Order of Merit, an honour in the personal gift of the Queen.
Boothroyd is a Vice President of the Industry and Parliament Trust and the Patron of the Jo Richardson Community School in Dagenham, East London, England, as well as being President of NBFA Assisting the Elderly.
Boothroyd in January 2011 posited that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's plans for some members to the upper house to be directly elected could leave Britain in constitutional disarray: "It is wantonly destructive. It is destruction that hasn’t been thought through properly". Boothroyd said she was concerned that an elected Lords would rival the Commons, risking power-struggles between the two.
Never married and without children, Boothroyd has remained physically active, taking up paragliding while on holiday in Cyprus in her 60s. She has described the hobby as both "lovely and peaceful" and "exhilarating". She has long held an interest in lighting and became an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Light & Lighting (SLL) in 2009.
Betty Boothroyd has received several honorary degrees in recognition of her political career.
|England||6 December 1993||City, University of London||Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) |
|England||1994||University of Cambridge||Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) |
|England||18 March 1995||Open University||Doctor of the University (D.Univ) |
|England||1995||University of Oxford||Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) |
|Scotland||26 June 2003||University of St Andrews||Doctor of Laws (LL.D) |
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for West Bromwich
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for West Bromwich West
Sir Paul Dean
|Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
Dame Janet Fookes
|Speaker of the House of Commons
The Lord Briggs
|Chancellor of the Open University
The Lord Puttnam