MPs grumble as Tony Benn honoured

Margaret Thatcher's coffin lies in the St Mary Undercroft chapel in the Commons last year
Margaret Thatcher's coffin lies in the St Mary Undercroft chapel in the Commons last year
Alex Stevenson By

Tony Benn's body will 'rest' in a Commons chapel overnight, Buckingham Palace confirmed – but the move has attracted criticism from one Tory MP.

The Queen gave permission for Benn's body to pass the night before his funeral in the Palace of Westminster's Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, following a request by the Speaker John Bercow.

He is only the second politician to be honoured in this way. The first was Margaret Thatcher, whose coffin rested in the chapel before her state funeral in St Paul's Cathedral.

Conservative backbencher Rob Wilson hit out at the move, accusing John Bercow of making an "error of judgement" by equating the achievements of Thatcher and Benn.

"Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first female prime minister, she came from an ordinary background to hold that office and dominate British politics for over a decade," he told the Mail newspaper.

"By contrast, Tony Benn was the son of a hereditary peer whose politics and views were not just rejected by the public but by his own party over two decades before he left parliament.

"The achievement and significance of the two are hardly comparable. Longevity doesn't equal significance and sentimental gestures such as this risk demeaning and degrading parliament and its traditions."

Benn was one of just two parliamentarians to be awarded the freedom of the Commons – the other being Edward Heath – in recognition of his record-breaking 16 election wins.

"The family were deeply touched by the Speaker's suggestion and would like to thank all those who have made it possible for their father to spend his last night in parliament," a spokesperson for the Benn family said.

While the Queen has given permission on this occasion, one official reportedly said the Palace is not happy about the "extraordinary request".

"I think it is an unusual request and it is a pity to put the Queen in that position," a source close to the royal household told the Telegraph.

The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Chaplain to the Speaker, will watch over Benn's body overnight.


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