Big Ben Brexit Bong in Doubt, Commons Commission May Refuse Crowdfunding

A Union flag lies from a flagpole opposite the Elizabeth Tower, commonly reffered to as Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 7, 2017. Britain on Wednesday headed into the final day of campaigning for a general election darkened and dominated by jihadist attacks in …
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s push for Britons to “bung a bob” to get Big Ben to bong on Brexit day may have been for nothing after the House of Commons Commission said that it may not accept any money raised to restore the Victorian clock.

The House of Commons Commission, which is chaired by the Speaker and is responsible for administration and estates management, said on Thursday night that money raised through crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe cannot be used without changing parliamentary rules on donations.

The Commission committee, which also includes six MPs, said there would need to be a parliamentary vote to change the rules on revenue, with Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle telling The Telegraph the prime minister could table a motion ordering the bells to chime.

“The decision was taken in the Commission. If somebody wants to change that decision, as I said from day one this should be the will of the House because it is political,” Sir Lindsay said.

Generous Britons have donated more than £150,000 to StandUp4Brexit’s campaign, which was launched by Conservative MP Mark Francois yesterday with a target of £500,000.

The Queen Elizabeth II tower, which houses Big Ben, is currently undergoing conservation work, with the clock on limited functionality. A temporary clapper was restored to mark Armistice Day and New Year, and campaigners are attempting to have it returned again to mark 11 p.m. on January 31st, 2020 — the hour the United Kingdom officially leaves the EU.

MPs had failed to have the momentous clock chime made a matter of law, but the concept of crowdfunding was given a ringing endorsement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said that his own team was “working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong”.

However, the prime minister appears to have rowed back from the pledge after it emerged that even if the funds were raised and the use of the money approved by the Commons the work may not be completed in time.

The prime minister’s deputy spokesman effectively admitted that the plans had been halted, telling The Times: “The House of Commons authorities have set out that there may be potential difficulties in accepting money from public donations. 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.”

While a Number 10 source told The Telegraph: “I don’t think we ever thought that it would be as complex as the House of Commons authorities have since set out.”

Mr Francois remarked on Mr Johnson appearing to go back on his word, saying: “As the prime minister effectively initiated this campaign live on TV two days ago, and as we are clearly going to hit the target, he would be mad to back away from it.”

“The prime minister has said repeatedly since the general election that we must listen to the will of the people. QED,” he added.

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