Par­lia­ment to lose Queen Vic­to­ria’s light

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Christo­pher Hope Chief Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

A NEW row about Big Ben has bro­ken out after it emerged that an his­toric lamp in­stalled by Queen Vic­to­ria to show that Par­lia­ment is sit­ting will be turned off for months.

The House of Com­mons con­firmed that the Ayr­ton Light at the top of the El­iz­a­beth Tower which houses Big Ben will be switched off for months while main­te­nance work is car­ried out.

It will be the first time in more than 70 years that the lantern has not been lit when MPS or peers are sit­ting. The last time it failed to shine was when the Ger­man air force was bomb­ing Lon­don dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

It came as John Ber­cow, the Speaker of the House of Com­mons, de­fied The- resa May, the Prime Min­is­ter, and re­fused to or­der a re­think of the de­ci­sion to si­lence Big Ben for four years from Mon­day to al­low for the main­te­nance of the great bell’s clock tower.

Nigel Evans, a for­mer deputy Speaker, asked why the lamp could not be re­stored dur­ing MPS’ long hol­i­days when Par­lia­ment is not sit­ting.

He said: “Health and safety have achieved what no­body other than the Luft­waffe has done since the Sec­ond World War. Turn­ing off this light is one step too far.” An­other MP added: “It tells peo­ple when the House is sit­ting. It is syn­ony­mous with in­form­ing

Lon­don when leg­is­la­tion is tak­ing place. This is switch­ing off democ­racy.”

MPS are al­ready ap­palled that from Mon­day at noon Big Ben will fall silent for four years to al­low main­te­nance work to be car­ried out. An­drea Lead­som, the Leader of the Com­mons, held emer­gency talks with Mr Ber­cow yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the con­tro­versy.

The Ayr­ton Light is lit when ei­ther House is sit­ting after dark and is named after Ac­ton Smee Ayr­ton, a First Com­mis­sioner of Works in the late 19th cen­tury. It was in­stalled in 1885.

The de­ci­sion to switch off the light and si­lence Big Ben was ap­proved by the House of Com­mons Com­mis­sion, which is chaired by Mr Ber­cow. It has now de­cided to meet next month to re­view the list of ex­cep­tional days when the bongs can be heard. A Com­mons spokesman said: “A sub­sti­tute light will shine whilst the Ayr­ton Light is be­ing re­paired. A de­sign for the sub­sti­tute light is cur­rently be­ing de­vel­oped.”

‘The bells ...the bells ...’

The Ayr­ton Light was in­stalled in 1885

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