Mark Francois, the Brexiteer Tory MP who earlier this year helped raise over £220,000 in a doomed campaign to get Big Ben to sound when the UK left the EU at 11pm on January 31 2020, called for a complete review of the project.
He said: “The refurbishment of the Elizabeth Tower has been such an ocean-going cock-up that it has cast a long shadow over the much wider restoration and renewal programme for the entire palace.
“After Covid, there is absolutely no way the public will ever sanction a multi-billion pound refurbishment programme for Parliament if it is as cack-handedly managed as this. That’s why, quite rightly, the entire project is now being completely reviewed.”
Separately, it has emerged that a special lift that is being installed for the first time in the Elizabeth Tower will not be able to carry members of the public up the tower’s 334 steps to see the Great Bell.
A Parliament spokesman said: “The lift will improve the safety and security of the building as well as helping to reduce the time it would take to evacuate a mobility-impaired person from the Tower in the event of an emergency. It is not intended for routine public use.”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, has pledged to investigate why the lift cannot carry disabled visitors to the Commons. A source close to Sir Lindsay said: “That is just absurd. The whole idea is that you spend this kind of money the least thing you can do is make sure the thing is accessible to everybody.”
Andrea Leadsom, a former Leader of the House of Commons, said: “I’m furious. I can’t believe the overrun on cost and time have resulted in not even delivering the promised disability access. This is outrageous.”
A Parliament source added: “Installing a lift in the Elizabeth Tower is part of essential health and safety works. The maximum size of the lift is constrained by the tower’s original Victorian design. The only available space for the lift is a ventilation shaft, and the restricted dimensions of the ventilation shaft mean that it is not possible to install a lift that is fully compliant with the relevant legislation.”