In Brief

Bill to repair Big Ben tower rises to £80m

Bomb damage and asbestos to add another £18.6m to cost of Elizabeth Tower renovation

The cost of repairing the iconic Houses of Parliament clock tower that houses Big Ben is rising by £18.6m to reach a total of £80m after dangerous asbestos was found in the fabric of the building.

Second World War bomb damage proved to be more serious than thought.

Work on the Elizabeth Tower began in 2017 and hundreds of thousands of tourists have been disappointed to find it shrouded in scaffolding ever since. The 314ft structure is 177 years old and its repair is the most visible part of a huge project to renovate parliament.

The rise in the cost of renovating the tower is due to factors including the need to remove dangerous asbestos and the discovery that damage inflicted by a German bomb in 1941 is far more extensive than previously thought.

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“A breakdown of the overrun is understood to have identified a failed attempt by the Commons’ specialist clock team to restore the timepiece’s mechanism as a significant cause,” says The Times. “It had to be sent off-site, adding almost £2 million to the bill.”

The Guardian quotes Ian Ailles, the director general of the House of Commons, as saying it was impossible to assess the problems properly until scaffolding went up.

In four years’ time, MPs will be moved out to allow work to take place on the rest of the building. The total projected cost of repairing the buildings is £3.5bn.

A spokesman for the House of Commons Commission said: “It is very frustrating to learn that the Elizabeth Tower project requires yet more funding, having agreed an extra £32 million in 2017.”

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