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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 2000. From 1992 to 2000, she served as Speaker of the House of Commons. She was the first, and to date only, woman Speaker. After the death of Michael Martin in 2018, she became the only living former Speaker of the House of Commons. She sits, by tradition, as a Crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

The Baroness Boothroyd

Official portrait of Baroness Boothroyd crop 2.jpg
Official portrait of Baroness Boothroyd
Speaker of the House of Commons
In office
27 April 1992 – 23 October 2000
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded byBernard Weatherill
Succeeded byMichael Martin
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
In office
11 June 1987 – 27 April 1992
SpeakerBernard Weatherill
Preceded byPaul Dean
Succeeded byJanet Fookes
Member of Parliament
for West Bromwich West
West Bromwich (1973–1974)
In office
24 May 1973 – 23 October 2000
Preceded byMaurice Foley
Succeeded byAdrian Bailey
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
15 January 2001
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born (1929-10-08) 8 October 1929 (age 89)
Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England
Political partyCrossbencher (Since 2001)
Other political


Early lifeEdit

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. From 1946 to 1954, she worked as a dancer, as a member of the Tiller Girls dancing troupe.[1]

During the mid to late 1950s, she worked as secretary to Labour MPs Barbara Castle[2] and Geoffrey de Freitas.[3] 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.[4] In 1965, she was elected to a seat on Hammersmith Borough Council, in Gibbs Green ward, where she remained until 1968.

Member of ParliamentEdit

Running for the Labour Party, Boothroyd 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.[5][6] 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.

Deputy Speaker and SpeakerEdit

Boothroyd's Speaker's shoe in the Women's Library

In 1987, she became a Deputy Speaker under the well-respected Speaker Bernard Weatherill. She served in this role for five years. 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.[7] 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".[8] She resigned as Speaker and as an MP by accepting an appointment to the position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds on 23 October 2000.[9]

Life peerage and recent activityEdit

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,[10] 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.[11]

Two portraits of Boothroyd are part of the parliamentary art collection.[12][13]

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.[14]

She is an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[16]

Styles of addressEdit

Achievement of arms
  • 1929–1973: Miss Betty Boothroyd
  • 1973–1992: Miss Betty Boothroyd MP
  • 1992–2000: The Rt Hon Betty Boothroyd MP
  • 2000–2001: The Rt Hon Betty Boothroyd
  • 2001–2005: The Rt Hon The Baroness Boothroyd PC
  • 2005–present: The Rt Hon The Baroness Boothroyd OM PC

Honorary degreesEdit

Boothroyd has received several honorary degrees in recognition of her political career.

Honorary degrees

Country Date School Degree
  England 6 December 1993 City, University of London Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) [17]
  England 1994 University of Cambridge Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) [18]
  England 18 March 1995 Open University Doctor of the University (D.Univ) [19]
  England 1995 University of Oxford Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) [20]
  Scotland 26 June 2003 University of St Andrews Doctor of Laws (LL.D) [21]


  1. ^ "Betty Boothroyd: To Parliament and beyond". BBC Online. 24 October 2001. Retrieved 21 January 2009.
  2. ^ "Baroness Boothroyd". UK Parliament Website. Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  3. ^ Political Correspondent (9 November 1957). "Sir Victor Raikes Resigns Seat". The Times.
  4. ^ "Betty Boothroyd Autobiography Paperback – 3 Oct 2002 (synopsis)". Amazon. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  5. ^ "EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (MEMBERSHIP) (Hansard, 1 July 1975)". Retrieved 2017-01-13.
  6. ^ "EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (MEMBERSHIP) (Hansard, 1 March 1977)". Retrieved 2017-01-13.
  7. ^ BBC Parliament coverage of the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons, 22 June 2009;
  8. ^ "Boothroyd praised as 'national institution'". BBC News. 12 July 2000. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  9. ^ "No. 56014". The London Gazette. 31 October 2000. p. 12206.
  10. ^ "No. 56095". The London Gazette. 19 January 2001. p. 719.
  11. ^ "No. 57645". The London Gazette. 20 May 2005. p. 6631.
  12. ^ Art in Parliament: THE RT. HON BETTY BOOTHROYD CHOSEN SPEAKER IN THE YEAR 1992;; accessed 21 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Artwork - Baroness Boothroyd". UK Parliament. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Betty Boothroyd attacks Nick Clegg's 'destructive' Lords reform". Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  15. ^ "St Edmund's College - University of Cambridge". Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  16. ^ "SLL Newsletter". Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Honorary graduates chronological". City, University of London. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Selected Honorands". 22 February 2013. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Honorary degrees". 21 July 1995. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  21. ^ "2003 - Betty Boothroyd to be awarded honorary degree - University of St Andrews". Archived from the original on 3 October 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2017.


  • Betty Boothroyd: The Autobiography. Publisher: Century (4 Oct 2001). ISBN 0-7126-7948-0

External linksEdit