Big Ben to be silent for Baroness Thatcher's funeral

The chimes of Big Ben will be silenced for the duration of Baroness Thatcher's funeral, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has announced.

He told MPs this would be "an appropriate means of indicating our sentiments" during the occasion.

There was a "profound dignity through silence," Mr Bercow added.

The silence will last throughout events on Wednesday, covering the procession from Westminster and the ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

The chiming of Big Ben, the name often used to describe the Great Bell, the Great Clock and the Elizabeth Tower - clock tower - in the Palace of Westminster, is one of London's most famous sounds.

'Deep respect'

It has not been silenced as a mark of respect since the funeral of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, although it was out of action for repairs for a period during the 1970s.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow said he had received "direct and indirect representations" over the best way for Parliament to mark the funeral of Lady Thatcher, who died last week aged 87.

He added: "I've considered all of these, but I concluded that the most appropriate means of indicating our sentiments would be for the chimes of Big Ben and the chimes of the Great Clock to be silenced for the duration of the funeral proceedings."

Mr Bercow also said: "I believe there can be a profound dignity and deep respect expressed through silence."

Responding for the government, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said it was a "very dignified and respectful gesture on behalf of Parliament".

"As you know, Lady Thatcher held Parliament in very great reverence in her time both in this House and in the Lords," he said."

Lady Thatcher's children, Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher, said they appreciated the "great honour".

The former prime minister has been accorded a ceremonial funeral with military honours, one step down from a state funeral.

A military rehearsal of the procession took place in central London during the early hours of Monday morning.

On Wednesday, Lady Thatcher's coffin will travel by hearse from the Palace of Westminster to the Church of St Clement Danes - the Central Church of the RAF - on the Strand.

It will then be transferred to the gun carriage and taken in procession to St Paul's Cathedral.

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