Jeremy Corbyn says silencing Big Ben for four years 'not a national disaster'

Posted On: 
16th August 2017

Jeremy Corbyn today backed silencing Big Ben for four years, saying it would not be a "national disaster" and the health of workers renovating the iconic clock “must come first”.

An aerial view of the Elizabeth Tower, which contains Big Ben
Credit: 
PA

The Labour leader’s stance is at odds with Theresa May, who said it “can’t be right” for the famous bell to fall silent for such a long period.

It was announced earlier this week 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.

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The special measures are being undertaken to allow renovation work on the Elizabeth Tower, which contains the bell.

A Parliament spokesman said there was a “serious risk” to workers’ hearing if they were subjected to “prolonged exposure” to the chimes.

But following the Prime Minister’s intervention this morning the parliamentary authorities said they would review the decision.

It followed outrage not just from Mrs May, but also Brexit Secretary David Davis, who called the situation "mad".

However, Mr Corbyn was clear that he prioritised the wellbeing of workers repairing the 19th century buildings.

"People working right alongside that wonderful massive bell need to be protected as well,” he told radio station LBC .

"Their safety, their working conditions and their health must come first, and so if we have to miss Big Ben in reality for a while so that work can be done, well, that’s something we have to go through.

"It’s not a national disaster or catastrophe.”

It also emerged this morning that the renovation work could last longer than expected, meaning Big Ben could be out of action beyond 2021.