MPs blast ‘bonkers’ Big Ben bong silence
MPs have hit out at the announcement by parliamentary authorities that Big Ben is to fall silent for four years as repair work gets underway.
The iconic Westminster bell is set to be out of action from next Monday until 2021, other than on select occasions including Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.
Management for Elizabeth Tower said the move was down to health and safety fears for those working on the maintenance and that providing ear defenders would prove dangerous.
Tory MP James Gray said the move was “entirely bonkers”, however, adding that he was “very sceptical” about the construction plans.
“It is ridiculous to silence the bell for four years,” he told the Telegraph.
“I am very sceptical about the whole thing. What is the point in putting in a lift that will only go as far as three-quarters of the way up?”
While accepting that construction workers’ hearing had to be protected, he pleaded: “Big Ben is terribly important to the mental well-being of the nation.
“Why can’t it ring out from 5pm to 7am when building work has ceased for the day?”
Labour MP Steven Pound said modern day health and safety had brought down what enemy planes during the Second World War could not.
“They kept the bells tolling through the Blitz,” he told The Sun.
“The Luftwaffe could not stop it but health and safety has. There has to be a way around.”
Sir Paul Beresford, who chaired the administration committee, expressed concern on whether the bells had to be silenced for such a long period.
The Tory MP said his committee would have “serious questions about why the bongs will be stopped for four years”.
Tory MP Shailesh Vara also blasted the timescale, adding: '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, Keeper of the Great Clock, said it would have been “too expensive and complicated” continue Big Ben’s chimes while work was ongoing.
He 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.”