HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc206-7
2. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Works when the scaffolding was erected around Big Ben Tower; when the repairs were completed; how much per week the hire has cost; and what will be the cost of removal.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. Harmar Nicholls)

The scaffold was erected between January and June, 1955, and the repairs were completed in February, 1957. The scaffold is the Ministry's property, but the hoist was hired at a cost of about £21 a week. The cost of removal of the scaffold will be about £1,600.

Mr. Crouch

May I ask my hon. Friend why the scaffolding was not removed immediately the work was completed?

Mr. Nicholls

The scaffolding is now about to be removed, which is as soon as the work has been completed.

4. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Works what has been the cost of repairing Big Ben and the tower; when the work was last carried out; and at what cost.

5. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Works how far the actual cost of repairs to the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament exceeds the original estimate.

Mr. H. Nicholls

The cost of repairing Big Ben and the Clock Tower was originally estimated at £40,000. It was not, however, possible to make an inspection and assess the full extent of war damage and general wear until the scaffolding had been erected. The final cost will exceed the original estimate by £26,000. General repairs to the Tower on this scale have not been undertaken since it was built. The bells were repaired in 1934 at a cost of £300, but the cast iron roof has not been painted since 1878.

Mr. Lipton

Does not this vast expenditure of £66,000, instead of £40,000, make Big Ben the most expensive clock in the world? Whilst appreciating that time is precious, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we could have built fifty houses for the cost of this one job?

Mr. Nicholls

It is essential work. Big Ben had to withstand the bombing and nothing has been done since then. If these repairs had not been done now it would have meant a considerably bigger bill later, unless, of course, we had allowed the Tower and Big Ben to fall down. I do not believe the hon. Gentleman thinks that Big Ben is not worth £66,000 to the country.

Mr. Crouch

Does not my hon. Friend think that, in spite of the expenditure of £66,000, the prestige of this Palace and this great city of London is very much enhanced by having Big Ben and the Tower?

Mr. Nicholls

I agree with my hon. Friend.