MPs revolt blocks plan to charge for Big Ben access

 

Visitors will continue to see Big Ben for free after MPs blocked a plan to charge tourists £15 for trips up Westminster's famous Clock Tower.

The House of Commons Commission wanted to levy the fee in a bid to make savings across Parliament.

But opponents claimed charging for access to the landmark housing the famous Big Ben bell breached citizens' democratic rights.

A Commons revolt by backbench MPs led to the plan today being scrapped, meaning visits will remain free until at least 2015.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon led the fight to keep Big Ben trips free, and opened today's backbench-led debate on the "fundamentally wrong" proposal.

"It is so wrong to institute charges for people to come and see our heritage and, in essence, impose double taxation as we pay for Parliament anyway," the Harlow MP told the Commons.

"I have a romantic belief in Parliament; I still genuinely believe this is the best Parliament in the world even with all the problems we face.

"We have to make our Parliament a very special place and encourage people to come.

"I hugely worry this place is becoming a place rather than a Parliament for the people, a place that is a theme park advertising weddings, bar mitzvahs and engagement parties or big corporate entertainment shows."

After a two-hour debate, Liberal Democrat John Thurso, who represents the House of Commission, withdrew his plan saying the "commission would ensure there was no charge for the Clock Tower during the course of this Parliament".

The current Parliament is due to end in 2015, with future MPs able to charge for guided tours if they want.

Leader of the House Sir George Young and his Labour shadow Angela Eagle did not object to the plan for charging visitors to pay £15 to climb the 334 steps to see the famous bell struck.

Sir George told MPs: "I have to say the ability to climb the Clock Tower isn't essential to the enhancement of our democracy, to an insight into the way the political system works.

"There is a difference between access to the Clock Tower and access to the chamber."

Ms Eagle said: "It is important to remember this about access to the Clock Tower. It is not about access to this building in its working sense as a Parliament."

Estimates suggested up to 10,000 people a year would pay the levy, generating £150,000 for Parliamentary funds, which would cover the £112,000 cost of providing tours up the tower next to the Thames.

But Mr Halfon feared it was a "double taxation" that should be avoided.

His spokesman later told the Press Association the MP was "delighted".

The spokesman said: "Robert has fought for this for many months and he is glad the commission has seen sense and agreed that Big Ben is an essential part of our parliament.

"This should be a people's parliament, not a parliament for the rich.

"This decision will preserve that."

PA

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on