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Commons plays down 'Big Ben' subsidence risk

The House of Commons yesterday played down suggestions that the Palace of Westminster is suffering from imminent subsidence.

The suggestions came in a flurry of media reports yesterday that said the Clock Tower — commonly referred to as Big Ben — could sink into the River Thames. But the body responsible for maintaining the Palace of Westminster, the House of Commons Commission, said that while the Clock Tower has a very slight tilt, this is not causing structural problems.

The Commission quoted Imperial College London senior research investigator and emeritus professor John Burland as saying it would take the Clock Tower 10,000 years to reach the inclination of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “It’s moving incredibly slowly and always has done so, and there really is no immediate danger at all,” he said.

The commission said officials would conduct an investigation into how repairs could be carried out, but no decisions would be taken until the next Parliament and no remediation work would need to begin before 2020.

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