Our Tony to be laid to rest at Westminster

Former Chesterfield MP Tony Benn during a Spireites' match.
Former Chesterfield MP Tony Benn during a Spireites' match.

Deceased former Chesterfield MP Tony Benn is to spend his last night in Parliament after it has been agreed for his body to be laid to rest in the Palace of Westminster.

The popular left-wing, Labour politician passed away on Friday, March 14, after a long illness and his demise triggered an avalanche of tributes from well-wishers.

A vigil will be kept by Commons Speaker John Bercow’s chaplain beside the coffin in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft during the night before the Labour politician’s funeral, on March 27.

The honour has only previously been afforded to one politician, and that was for former prime minister Baroness Thatcher.

However, Tony Benn will not have a ceremonial funeral as she did.

Mr Bercow said: “Tony Benn’s time as an MP spanned more than 50 years and he is one of only two MPs to be awarded the freedom of the House - the other being Edward Heath - in recognition of his very long and distinguished service as an MP.

“It is this almost unique distinction which forms the basis for Tony Benn to be accorded the privilege to ‘rest’ in the chapel on the eve of his funeral.”

The funeral will take place opposite Parliament at St Margaret’s Church.

The Speaker’s chaplain, the Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, will keep a vigil and there will be a private family gathering for the ex-cabinet minister.

A family spokesman said: “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.”

David Cameron and Ed Miliband delivered formal tributes to Mr Benn in the Commons, the Labour leader describing him as “an iconic figure of our age”.

MPs will discuss his life and legacy in a debate led by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today.