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David Davis slams 'mad' decision to silence Big Ben for four years

David Davis slams 'mad' decision to silence Big Ben for four years
2 min read

David Davis has charged into the row over Big Ben’s bonging, branding the decision to silence the famous bell for four years “mad”. 

The Brexit Secretary joined a handful of backbench MPs in criticising the plan for the restoration programme for Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower.

It was announced yesterday that Big Ben would fall silent from next Monday until 2021, with the exception of chimes for special occasions like Remembrance Sunday and the New Year.

The renovations will include repairs to the tower and the Great Clock, and the ringing will be stopped in part to protect workers’ health and safety.

Mr Davis said he had been left confused by the planned length of the works.

“It’s mad,” he told LBC.  

“I’d forgotten – of course, I’d been out of government for a lot of years – and I’d forgotten how long it takes to get the approvals for this, the approvals for that. There’s a rude phrase which I will shorten to ‘just get on with it’...

“I can’t understand why. There’s hardly a health and safety argument – it’s replacing the bell. Maybe it’s to do with all the trouble about the £3bn they want to spend on Parliament, who knows – also an interesting problem.

“But they should get on with it. As I say, the polite version: just get on with it.”

Several other MPs have attacked the proposals, with fellow Conservative James Gray calling the idea “entirely bonkers”.

Labour’s Stephen Pound added: “They kept the bells tolling through the Blitz. The Luftwaffe could not stop it but health and safety has. There has to be a way around.”

Another Tory, Shailesh Vara, mused: “Why should it be taking four years? Are they working three shifts in 24 hours, or are they doing a 9 to 5?”

Steve Jaggs, the keeper of the Great Clock, said: This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower.

A parliamentary spokesperson said the move was necessary to protect building workers’ health: “Constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing and prevent efficient working.”

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