Theresa May: It can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years

Posted On: 
16th August 2017

Theresa May has piled into the row over Big Ben’s bonging, saying it “can’t be right” to silence the famous bell for four years.

Parliament's Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben and the Great Clock
PA Images

The Prime Minister joined David Davis and a handful of other MPs in criticising the restoration planning for Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower.

It was announced 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 renovations will include repairs to the tower and the Great Clock.

Yesterday, Parliament defended the decision to halt the ringing, claiming it would protect the hearing of workers on the site.

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

“It’s mad,” he told LBC.  

“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.”

Fellow Conservative James Gray called 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.”