Reporter Ruby Anstee
Former Saddleworth News editor Stuart Littleford, recently spoke to Debbie Abrahams MP to pass on suggestions from SN readers that could avoid the chimes of Big Ben falling silent during upcoming restoration work.
The communications were passed on to Mrs Abrahams by Mr Littleford whilst he was on business in Westminster.
Stuart said: “Although this wasn’t a Saddleworth issue as such, we had a number of SN readers commenting with suggestions to keep Big Ben ringing throughout restoration work on the clock tower. I took the opportunity to relay some of these suggestions to Debbie Abrahams. It was nice to get a good detailed response for our readers.”
In a letter to Stuart, Debbie Abrahams said: “Dear Mr Littleford, as you may be aware, the decision to stop the bell tolling until 2021 as part of the restoration of the Elizabeth Tower was agreed by three separate parliamentary committees in 2015.
“In a recent statement, the House of Commons commission said it had heard the concerns of MPs, saying that 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.
“In a recent statement on parliament’s website the commission said starting and stopping Big Ben is a complex and lengthy process. The striking hammer is locked and the bells can then be disconnected from the clock mechanism. The weights are lowered within the weight shaft to the base of the tower and secured in a safe position. The whole process takes around half a day to complete.
“Following a thorough assessment, experts have concluded that it would not be practical or a good use of public money to start and stop the bells each day, particularly as we cannot fully predict the times that staff will be working on this project.
“Any new discussions with MPs about the length of time the bells will fall silent 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.
“As you may be aware, the restoration project will involve extensive repairs to the whole clock tower and the dismantling and restoration of the clock. The 13.5-tonne bell will not be removed but it will be checked for cracks. One reason for the silencing of the clock was to protect the hearing of workers. Given that the bell produces a 120-decibel sound the safety of workers must be a priority.
“I know that Jeremy Corbyn has also suggested a recording may be possible and I am sure that the commission will give due consideration to this option you and some of your Saddleworth News readers have suggested, as they review the time Big Ben will fall silent.”