HC Deb 08 March 1982 vol 19 c599
33. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will raise in the Services Committee the matter of the cleaning of the clock tower that houses Big Ben.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)

Work on the clock tower is part of the programme of restoration of the stonework of the Palace of Westminster, which is being funded by the Department of the Environment. It is not possible to say when that particular part of the programme will be undertaken.

Mr. Janner

What part of the programme will deal with that area of the Palace of Westminster that is most visible? Is it correct that work is now to move to an area that is almost invisible? When will this resounding symbol of democracy be encased in clean and safe surroundings?

Mr. Pym

It will obviously take some time to complete the whole work. I informed the House on 8 February that the next phase of the programme in 1982–83 will consist of work on the western elevation of the Palace. In due course, we shall come to the clock tower.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

When the great symbol of democracy comes up for cleaning, will my right hon. Friend remind his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that modern technology does not require the whole of Big Ben to be surrounded by scaffolding for that purpose?

Mr. Pym

We shall be glad to take technical advice from my hon. Friend.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend agree that work on the symbol of democracy—the Big Ben tower—should be brought forward and that it should betackled next before anything else is done?

Mr. Pym

I thought that this Chamber rather than Big Ben was the symbol of democracy, but I shall convey those views to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I know that he has considered the programme carefully and I doubt whether he will wish or think it appropriate to alter what he has decided after consideration.