He said that MPs should be given a chance to overturn a decision by the House of Commons Commission that reactivating the bell in Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower was too costly to be justifiable. Downing Street officials said Mr Johnson had yet to receive the letter but indicated that the issue was a matter for parliamentary authorities rather than Number 10.
Mr Francois, who has been leading a campaign to make the bell ring as the UK quits the EU at 11pm on January 31, wrote: “We now know that the estimates of the House of Commons Commission, of a cost of £500,000 to make Big Ben chime, was deliberately inflated.
“Even using the commission’s own recent figures, including a two-week delay to the refurbishment work, the cost would now be £320,000, a figure which we are already over 80 per cent of the way towards achieving.”
Mr Francois pointed out that an appeal on the GoFundMe website set up by the Stand Up 4 Brexit pressure group had raised more than £265,000 by last night.
He urged the Prime Minister to “finish” the job he had started by last week appealing for people to “bung a bob to make Big Ben bong.”
Mr Francois wrote: “Bluntly, you started this, so I am calling upon you to help finish it.
“You can do this by tabling a parliamentary motion to facilitate a free vote this week by MPs on whether or not Big Ben should chime for Brexit, at a cost of up to £320,000 with little or no likely cost to the taxpayer.”
He added: “Big Ben is the nation’s clock and the most iconic timepiece in the world, and it is not owned by the Government.
“However, given its location at Westminster, MPs are effectively its guardians and therefore they should have the final say on whether or not it chimes to mark out historic departure from the EU, something I hope we can all agree we are never likely to repeat.”
Mr Francois signed off his letter by saying: “As the clock is metaphorically ticking – but not yet chiming! – I await your early reply.”
At the weekend, the Prime Minister’s officials announced that the Government will mark Brexit Day by flying Union flags around Parliament Square and triggering a light show in Whitehall including projecting a digital countdown clock onto the facade of Number 10.
Mr Francois personally delivered his letter by hand to Number 10 last night.