1. ITV Report

Big Ben bong bid set for defeat as PM focuses on official Brexit celebrations

Credit: PA

Boris Johnson appears to have admitted defeat in his battle for Big Ben to bong for Brexit.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister was focusing on official plans to mark 11pm on January 31.

The news comes as Government sources hit out at "intransigence" from the Commons authorities over the use of Parliament’s famous bell - currently silenced while renovations are carried out.

Big Ben is not scheduled to chime again until 2021 and the estimated cost of bringing that forward, even temporarily, is estimated to be huge. Credit: PA

The cost of Big Ben bonging for Brexit has been estimated as up to £500,000 and already tens of thousands of pounds have been pledged by supporters keen to hear the bell toll on 31 January.

It comes after the Prime Minister had previously said he was "working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong" to mark the end of the UK's membership of the European Union.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: "The House of Commons authorities have set out that there may be potential difficulties in accepting money from public donations."

Those in opposition to the plans made their feelings clear on a message outside Parliament. Credit: AP

They continued: "I think the PM’s focus is on the events which he and the Government are planning to mark January 31.

"It’s a significant moment in our history and we want to ensure that’s properly recorded."

The change in direction could be a result of what the House of Commons Commission called an "unprecedented approach" in attempting to fund the cost through public donation.

It added: "Any novel form of funding would need to be consistent with principles of propriety and proper oversight of public expenditure",

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle baulked at the idea of paying the cost of bringing the bell back into use, saying "you are talking about £50,000 a bong".

MP Mark Francois said the Prime Minister would be mad to back down. Credit: PA

Pressed on whether people should contribute to the 'Big Ben must bong for Brexit' appeal, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: "I’m just reflecting that the Parliamentary authorities have set out some potential problems.

"Our focus is on the events that the Government are currently working on."

But Brexiteer MP Mark Francois said the Prime Minister would be mad to back down now.

The MP for Rayleigh and Wickford said the Prime Minister had "effectively initiated this campaign live on TV".

  • On Tuesday MP Mark Francois said he was "very confident" £500,000 could be raised:

The appeal had raised more than £110,000 on Thursday afternoon, with more than 6000 people donating from 38 different countries.

If the appeal is unsuccessful, the money is set to go to military charity Help for Heroes.

Commons Leader Jacob-Rees Mogg also joined the debate on Thursday, he told MPs "one shouldn't look gift horses in the mouth," he added:

"If people wish to pay for things, I think that should be considered as part of their public-spiritedness rather than feeling that everything should always fall on the hard-pressed taxpayer."

  • Why does ringing the bell cost so much money?
  • Bringing the ‘bonging’ mechanism back, testing it and allowing it to chime, building a temporary floor to the belfry and removing it again would cost an estimated £120,000
  • Delaying the ongoing conservation work by up to four weeks would cost £100,000 a week
  • At that price it would cost £50,000 per bong