Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Thatcher family welcomes bells move

Mark Thatcher (right) with (left to right) wife Sarah, son Michael and daughter Amanda outside the home of his late mother, Margaret Thatcher
Carol Thatcher leaves the home of her late mother, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in central London
Security barriers are erected near St Paul's Cathedral

Baroness Thatcher's children Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher said they appreciated the "great honour" of Big Ben and Westminster's Great Clock falling silent during their mother's funeral on Wednesday.

The decision was taken to silence the famous London landmarks as a mark of respect to the former prime minister who died last week aged 87.

The last time the chimes of Westminster's Great Clock were halted in this way was for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, although the bells were silenced for a period in the 1970s by a mechanical breakdown.

Lady Thatcher's children issued a statement expressing their gratitude.

They said: "Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher would like to express their appreciation for the great honour accorded to their mother by the announcement this afternoon by the Speaker of the House of Commons that Big Ben and the Great Clock will fall silent during Wednesday's funeral. They are deeply conscious that this tribute was last paid to Sir Winston Churchill in 1965."

The announcement by Commons Speaker John Bercow came as the Ministry of Defence revealed the names of the military pall-bearers who will carry Lady Thatcher's coffin into St Paul's Cathedral for the ceremonial funeral.

Made up of personnel from all three services drawn from units, stations and ships which served in the Falklands War, the eight-strong bearer party includes Scots Guards Lance Sergeant Paul Quayle, whose father fought in the 1982 conflict. Walking behind the coffin will be the party's commander Major Nick Mott and his Warrant Officer brother Bill, both Welsh Guardsmen who served in the Falklands.

More than 700 serving armed forces personnel gathered in central London before dawn for a full-scale rehearsal of the funeral parade. A Union flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage from St Clement Danes, the church of the Royal Air Force, down the Strand to St Paul's. The procession band played the funeral marches of Chopin, Beethoven and Mendelssohn as it made its way along the deserted streets.

Meanwhile, left-winger George Galloway will later attempt to frustrate plans to cancel Wednesday's session of Prime Minister's Questions and Scottish questions in the Commons so MPs can attend the funeral.

Ministers had hoped a motion tabled by Leader of the House Andrew Lansley to delay the start of business in the Commons until 2.30pm on Wednesday would go through "on the nod". But the Respect MP has said he will try to block the motion by calling out "object", forcing the Government to set aside time on Tuesday to debate the proposal.

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