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British PM says its wrong for Big Ben to go silent

By Conal Urquhart in London | | Updated: 2017-08-17 00:01

British PM says its wrong for Big Ben to go silent

The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and the 'Big Ben' bell, is seen above the Houses of Parliament, in central London, Britain August 14, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

The British Prime Minster has said that it is wrong for the London landmark Big Ben to go silent for four years.

The Elizabeth Tower which houses the Big Ben bell is scheduled to undergo four years of renovation. The bell will ring for the last time at noon on August 21 when the ringing mechanism will be cut.

Speaking in Portsmouth after a ceremony involving the new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, May told reporters: "Of course we want to ensure people's safety at work but it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years."

"And I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years."

The silencing of Big Ben was announced this week to the surprise of many even though it has gone silent many times during its 157-year history.

The announcement happened in August when the British politicians and civil servants holiday and the media tends to amplify small stories. The period is referred to in the media as the "silly season".

The administrators of the Palace of Westminster, which houses the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower defended their actions, which they said were first agreed in 2015 by three separate committees of members or parliament.

They said in a statement: "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."

The House of Commons website confirmed that the bells will stop as planned at noon on August 21 but they would be happy to hold further discussions on the duration of the silence.

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