In an unprecedented break with tradition, a special religious service to mark Armistice Day is to be held in the House of Commons chamber, the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has announced.
After this year’s Remembrance Sunday ceremonies were heavily restricted because of COVID-19, Sir Lindsay will lead what is believed to be the first ever mini-service for Armistice Day in the chamber.
Announcing the service, he said it was more important than ever to commemorate the heroes of the First World War, especially as so many national events on Remembrance Sunday were either scaled back or cancelled.
“Pausing for two minutes to remember the sacrifice made by so many brave men and women in faraway places 102 years ago is something we should not give up to this awful virus,” said Sir Lindsay.
“It is why I wanted this House and its members to have the opportunity to commemorate this moment in the Commons chamber.”
The Speaker’s chaplain, Tricia Hillas, who normally leads prayers behind closed doors ahead of the start of proceedings in the Commons, will begin the seven-minute service with a reading from Psalm 46.1, beginning: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Around 50 MPs – the limit under parliament’s current restrictions – are expected to take part from the green benches and in the galleries above and around the chamber.
Sir Lindsay will read from the 1914 poem For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon, which includes the famous words: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
Then at 11am, just as on Remembrance Sunday, despite the current renovation work, Big Ben will toll to mark the beginning of the two-minutes’ silence. The service will end with a prayer and a blessing.
Sir Lindsay said the normal Speaker’s procession with prayers in the chamber will continue as usual at 11.30am before the start of business, which features the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session at noon.
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