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MPs ‘bow their heads’ as Big Ben bongs for the final time

Big Ben chimed for the final time at midday on Monday as the Elizabeth Tower begins major renovation works which will last for a total of four years.

MPs gathered in Parliament Square and bowed their heads as the famous clock bonged for the final time until 2021.

Labour MP Stephen Pound said MP’s had their ‘heads bowed’ but has ‘hope in our hearts’ as Big Ben was silenced – a highly controversial decision.

As the bell can be heard over nine miles away, the decision was taken to silence it during renovation in order to protect the workers’ hearing.

The TUC released a statement last week saying protecting workers from a 120-decibel sound was “just plain common sense”.

A spokesman for Parliament said: “Constant proximity and prolonged exposure to the chimes would pose a serious risk to the hearing of those working on the scaffolding or in the Tower.

“While hearing protection provides a suitable short-term solution to the 118-decibel chiming and striking of the bells, it is not acceptable for those working for long periods in the vicinity of Big Ben.

“Also, it is vital for workers to be able to communicate with one another on-site, or to raise the alarm should the necessity arise. This would not be possible were the bells to continue to sound throughout the works.

“Workers on the scaffolding could also be startled by the sudden loud noise, with consequences for their own safety and those of other people in and around the tower. The only way to ensure people’s safety is to temporarily stop the bell.”

The work is being undertaken to prevent and repair damage caused by corrosion and leaks, as well as bringing the tower into the 21st century in terms of fire safety and guidance.

A lift will also be installed meaning people will no longer have to climb 399 steps to reach the lantern.

Parliament has said that Big Ben will continue to chime for important occasions. The next such occasion will likely be Remembrance Sunday, 12th November and at the start of 2018 to mark the New Year.

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