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Parliament to consider ding-dong over Big Ben bong ban

Concerns have been raised by a number of MPs over the length of time that the bells will fall silent.

Parliament will review plans to silence Big Ben for four years during renovation work after Theresa May joined the growing backlash against the move.

The Prime Minister said “it can’t be right” for the Great Bell to be stopped for such a long period and called on Commons Speaker John Bercow to “urgently” look again at the timescale.

When MPs return from their summer break, the House of Commons Commission will “consider” how long the bongs should be halted following concerns raised “by a number of MPs”.

A Commons spokesman said: “When Parliament returns, in light of concerns expressed by a number of MPs, the House of Commons Commission will consider the length of time that the bells will fall silent.

“Of course, any discussion will focus on undertaking the work efficiently, protecting the health and safety of those involved, and seeking to ensure resumption of normal service as soon as is practicable given those requirements.”

Mrs May waded into the row after returning to the UK following a walking holiday in Switzerland.

During a visit to Portsmouth, she told reporters: “Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.

“And I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.”

MPs did not know about the four-year silence when the plans were signed off.

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Brexit Secretary David Davis said stopping the chimes was “mad” as he dismissed health and safety concerns linked to the clock tower’s restoration and urged the estate’s authorities to “just get on with it”.

The move was also labelled “entirely bonkers” by Conservative MP James Gray who sat on the administration committee which first approved the work.

It would be the longest period Big Ben has been silenced in its 157-year history and is set to begin after noon on Monday August 21.

The 13.7-tonne Great Bell was last stopped for maintenance in 2007 and before that was halted for two years in 1983 for refurbishment, but has been stopped on a number of other occasions since it first sounded in 1859.

Parliamentary officials defended the plan, insisting workers’ hearing would be put at “serious risk” and warned that those using the 100-metre-high scaffolding around the tower could also be startled by the 118-decibel bongs.

And they dismissed suggestions the chimes could be restored during the hours that work is not being carried out as the process takes about half a day to complete.

The £29 million renovation includes the installation of a lift and repairs to the clock’s hands, mechanism and pendulum.

The Commission, which is responsible for running the estate, is led by Mr Bercow and is made up of MPs and senior Parliamentary officials.

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