London - As Big Ben is silenced for up to four years on Monday, MPs are set to gather outside Parliament with ‘heads bowed’.
Crowds are expected on Parliament Square at midday to hear the bells sound for the last time before repair work begins.
And Labour MP Stephen Pound said on Sunday he hoped at least 20 ‘like-minded traditionalists’ from the Commons would join them.
Plans to silence Big Ben for four years were met with anger last week – but officials have still ruled out a reprieve.
However, there will be a review of the length of the repair work by the House of Commons Commission, chaired by Speaker John Bercow, in the autumn.
Revelations over the bells falling silent prompted a revolt by MPs from across the political spectrum, who said they had no idea they had signed off on a plan to stop the chimes because of health and safety fears.
They expressed anger at the length of time allocated for the £29million refurbishment of the Elizabeth Tower, when the bells will not ring in order to protect workers from hearing damage.
If it is silenced for four years, it will be the longest period Big Ben has remained quiet after 157 years of almost unbroken service.
Mr Pound said: ‘We’re going to be gathering outside the members’ entrance, gazing up at this noble, glorious edifice, listening to the sounds rolling across Westminster, summoning true democrats to the Palace of Westminster. We’ll be stood down there with heads bowed but hope in our hearts.’
The most senior figure in the House of Lords, Lord Speaker Lord Fowler, has revealed he did not sign off the plans to keep the bells silent for four years. He told The Sunday Telegraph he learnt of the move only a few weeks ago, adding: ‘It is a very long period. Because of all the public reaction that there has been to this – which was entirely foreseeable – we should just see if that time can be cut down.
‘Nothing could be more symbolic really than Big Ben, which we all remember from the Second World War onwards.’
Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, who answers MPs’ questions on the commission’s behalf, said one concession could be allowing Big Ben to chime on a greater number of special occasions.
Three Brexit-backing Tory MPs have called for Big Ben to bong Britain out of the European Union on March 29, 2019.
Plans are already in place for the bell to chime on New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Day.
Mr Brake said: ‘The House of Commons Commission has agreed to look at the issue when we’re back, and what I take that to mean is look at whether there is perhaps more scope for the bells to be rung on other ad hoc occasions.’
He said it was difficult to shorten the time for which Big Ben will fall silent as the clock that drives the bell is being dismantled, overhauled and tested, which will take two years.
Tory MP Nigel Evans made a late plea for the plans to be halted, claiming those involved in the decision had been ‘kept blind’ about how long the bell would fall silent for.
‘My own view is that Big Ben, whether it be the Elizabeth Tower or indeed the bell inside, it’s not just one of the most iconic British things, it’s one of the most iconic world things, it’s on a Unesco site,’ he said.
‘And it doesn’t belong to us in Parliament, it belongs to the people of Britain, as far as I’m concerned, and we have to have them in mind.’