Government have not yet requested Big Ben's bells bong for Brexit

9 January 2020, 06:24 | Updated: 9 January 2020, 06:54

Big Ben's bells have been silenced while restoration work takes place
Big Ben's bells have been silenced while restoration work takes place. Picture: PA

The Government haven't yet requested Big Ben's bells chime to mark the moment of Brexit, MPs have been told after Tory plans to enshrine the plan in law were scuppered.

After an amendment to the withdrawal agreement bill to require the famous bell to bong at 11pm on Brexit day was not selected for debate, it looked certain Big Ben would not chime to make Brexit.

But Conservative Sir Paul Beresford said no approach has been received from ministers by the House of Commons Commission.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who chairs the commission, has previously suggested he would not personally block such a request if the House wishes it to happen.

Conservative former minister Mark Francois has also led efforts within parliament for Big Ben to bong at 11pm on January 31 to mark the UK's departure from the EU.

He has tabled an early day motion (EDM), which has attracted 55 signatures, and proposed an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill although it was not selected for debate.

MPs have been told the Government have not asked for the historic bells to chime
MPs have been told the Government have not asked for the historic bells to chime. Picture: PA

Sir Paul, answering a written parliamentary question on behalf of the commission, said: "The House of Commons Commission has not received a request from the Government to arrange for Big Ben to chime to mark the UK's departure from the EU."

He added the commission is "aware" of the EDM and "further aware" of the amendment which was tabled.

Sir Paul added: "In May 2018, the commission agreed that, during the Elizabeth Tower refurbishment project, Big Ben should sound only for Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day and over the New Year."

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), who asked the written question, told reporters: "For many people across the UK, leaving the EU on January 31 will not be a cause for celebration.

"The bombast and triumphalism of the hard Brexiteers who want to hear Big Ben chime to mark that moment is hardly in keeping with the PM's desire to bring the country together.

"It now seems that despite the ERG's (European Research Group) best efforts, the Government has not approached parliamentary authorities about the use of Big Ben and the Commons commission is clear that it was not one of the few causes envisioned that would allow for chimes during the repair period.

"Stopping the expensive restoration work to chime the bells will add to the cost of the overall programme - and many who would hear the bells might not hear celebrations, but be asking for whom the bell tolls."

Big Ben's bongs were temporarily silenced in 2017 for the safety of workers involved in a four-year restoration scheme of the Elizabeth Tower.

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