Parliament to lose Queen Victoria’s light
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