First female speaker of the House of Commons was ‘one of a kind’, says Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Betty Boothroyd, the first female speaker of the House of Commons, has died, aged 93.
Lady Boothroyd, a former Labour MP, was speaker from 1992 until her retirement in 2000, and was the first person to be elected to the role after the Commons debates started being permanently televised in 1989. She was later made a life peer in the House of Lords.
The current Commons speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, has led tributes to Boothroyd, describing her as an “inspirational woman and politician” who “stuck by the rules” and will be remembered for her “good humour and charm”.
Boothroyd served as the MP for West Bromwich West, formerly West Bromwich, from 1973 until 2000, becoming the speaker in 1992.
Hoyle said: “Not only was Betty Boothroyd an inspiring woman, but she was also an inspirational politician, and someone I was proud to call my friend.
“To be the first woman speaker was truly groundbreaking and Betty certainly broke that glass ceiling with panache.
“She was from Yorkshire, and I am from Lancashire – so there was always that friendly rivalry between us. But from my point of view, it was heartening to hear a northern voice speaking from the chair.
“She stuck by the rules, had a no-nonsense style, but any reprimands she did issue were done with good humour and charm.
“Betty was one of a kind. A sharp, witty and formidable woman – and I will miss her.”
Boothroyd modernised the Commons speaker role as she refused to wear the traditional white wig, and ensured her successors would be able to choose whether to do so.
Boothroyd making her valedictory speech to mark her retirement as speaker in July 2000. Photograph: PA
Although, in one of her more controversial moments, she banned MPs from breastfeeding their babies during select committee meetings and imposed a similar ban in the Commons public gallery.
The Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Simon Clarke, described Boothroyd as a “magnificent parliamentarian”, and said it was “a thrill to see her around the Commons until recently”.
Charlotte Nichols, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said she was “absolutely devastated” to hear the news, adding: “She was my idol as a small child and the reason I got interested in politics. I’ve only seen her once in Westminster and was too awestruck to even introduce myself, and now I’ll never have that opportunity.”
Boothroyd grew up in a working-class family in Dewsbury and became involved in politics at a young age as her mother was a member of the women’s section of the Labour party.
After moving to London in the 1950s, she worked for two influential Labour MPs, Barbara Castle and Geoffrey de Freitas.