The Scottish Mail on Sunday

BONGSKRIEG!

Luftwaffe bombers blamed as cost of restoring Big Ben soars by ANOTHER £18m

- By Brendan Carlin POLITICAL CORRESPOND­ENT

BLAST damage from Luftwaffe bombs dropped on Westminste­r almost 80 years ago is being blamed for part of a massive rise in the cost of repairing Big Ben.

MPs will this week be asked to fork out another £18 million on restoring the world-famous landmark after being told of previously undiscover­ed damage dating from the Second World War.

Sources claim that only now has the full impact of an air raid in May 1941 on the tower been revealed.

But it will mean that the Big Ben revamp, originally approved in 2015 with an initial budget of £29million that two years later was hiked to £61million, will now cost close to £80million.

Last night, MPs vented their anger at the soaring cost and said it would cast doubt on the Commons actually going ahead with the much bigger planned £4billion restoratio­n of the whole Palace of Westminste­r. One senior MP said: ‘If what’s happening with Big Ben tells us anything, it’s that the official estimate for revamping the whole Palace isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. As soon as we’ve moved out for that works, they’ll tell us, “Sorry – the budget for that’s doubled too.”’

Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower that houses it are encased in scaffoldin­g as part of a four-year refurbishm­ent due to be finished by 2021. But The Mail on Sunday has learnt that contractor­s have discovered that a Luftwaffe raid on

May 10, 1941 which destroyed the Commons Chamber and blew out the south clock face of Big Ben, had a much larger ‘collateral’ effect on the tower, including extensive damage to stonework.

They say it has only been during the restoratio­n project that the true extent of this damage has been exposed. A parliament­ary spokesman said last night: ‘As the real condition of the tower is fully revealed, our knowledge of the extent of the damage and our understand­ing of the work required develops.’

 ??  ?? RUINS: Winston Churchill visiting Parliament after the 1941 raid by Luftwaffe bombers, top left
RUINS: Winston Churchill visiting Parliament after the 1941 raid by Luftwaffe bombers, top left
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