The Elizabeth Tower conservation project was agreed by the Commons Administration Committee on 12 October 2015, the Administration and Works Committee in the House of Lords on 2 November 2015 and the Commons Finance Committee on 14 October 2015 and 4 November 2015.
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.
When Parliament returns, 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. Of course, any discussion 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.
The bells will cease to ring, as planned, following the chimes at noon on Monday 21 August.
Big Ben’s bongs are an integral part of parliamentary life and we will ensure that they can resume their role as the nation’s timekeeper as soon as possible.