Ding dong! Big Ben chimes to provide Christmas cheer

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Big Ben will ding dong merrily on high when its bongs are restored for Christmas.

The chimes were silenced in August for four years under controversial renovation plans with only events like New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday picked out as exemptions.

But Commons leader Andrea Leadsom has persuaded parliamentary officials to allow the bell to chime over the festive season.

(Victoria Jones/PA)
(Victoria Jones/PA)

Under the plans the bongs will be reinstated from December 23 until New Year's Day, according to The Sunday Times.

Mrs Leadsom told the newspaper: "Some people might think this is a trivial matter - but over the course of the repairs, we have a duty to uphold the huge appeal of Big Ben to the millions of tourists that visit it each year.

"I'm sure visitors to the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal would be incredibly disappointed if they were covered in scaffolding - the same is true of Elizabeth Tower."

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom. (Alastair Grant/AP/PA)
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom. (Alastair Grant/AP/PA)

She added: "I'm delighted that we've made progress, and I will continue to press for the bell to ring again before 2021."

Prime Minister Theresa May joined the outcry against plans to stop the bell for the longest period in its 157-year history when the proposals were unveiled.

A month after the last bong, parliamentary officials said the repair costs for the Elizabeth Tower restoration had doubled to an estimated £61 million.

(Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA)
(Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/PA)

The conservation project for the clock tower, which houses the Big Ben bell, was originally priced at £29 million in the spring of 2016.

A parliamentary spokesman said: "As has always been planned, Big Ben will still chime for important national occasions.

"We will shortly announce the schedule for sounding the bells over the Remembrance Sunday weekend and the Christmas/New Year period."