Thatcher Funeral: Body Moved To Westminster

The body of Baroness Thatcher has arrived at the Houses of Parliament for a private family service.

Draped in a Union flag, her coffin was brought by hearse to the Palace of Westminster, to be laid in the crypt chapel of St Mary Undercroft before her ceremonial funeral at St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday.

Topped by a large bouquet of white flowers, it was lifted from the hearse and carried into Parliament by four pallbearers in black ties.

Lady Thatcher's son and daughter, Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher, arrived to pay their respects.

A short private service to receive the body into the chapel was being led by the Dean of Westminster and attended by close relatives and senior figures from both Houses of Parliament who worked closely with Britain's first Prime Minister.

After the service, the chapel will remain open for MPs, peers and parliamentary staff to pay their respects to the woman who dominated Westminster as Prime Minister from 1979-90 and served as an MP and peer for more than half a century from 1959 until her death aged 87 last week.

The Speaker's Chaplain, the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, will then maintain a vigil through the night.

As her body lies in the chapel, MPs will later take part in a potentially bitter debate about her legacy - and the cancellation of Wednesday's PMQs to allow politicians to attend the funeral.

Respect MP George Galloway and Labour veteran Dennis Skinner have objected to the move, which means the proposed change in sitting time will now be voted on after a debate lasting up to three hours.

MPs had the chance to pay tribute to Lady Thatcher when Parliament was recalled at the request of David Cameron last week.

But Bradford West MP Mr Galloway said he was prevented from making a "disrespectful" contribution and would relish the chance to give his verdict on her time in office.

"This was a wicked and divisive woman who was hated by half of the country and did great damage to a society she said didn't exist," he said.

He also hit out at plans to silence the bells of Big Ben and the Great Clock at Westminster.

"The muffling of the chimes of Big Ben is a step too far and now Mr Cameron will miss Prime Minister's Questions for four weeks. It is unconscionable.

"It was indicated to me that no disrespectful contributions would be tolerated in the debate last week so ... I will have a lot to say."

The decision was taken to silence the famous London landmarks as a mark of respect to the UK's first and so far only female prime minister, who died last week aged 87.

The last time the chimes of Westminster's Great Clock were halted in this way was for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Ladt Thatcher's coffin will leave the Palace of Westminster by hearse before being transferred to a gun carriage for the final leg of its journey to St Paul's during the ceremonial funeral service.

The international guestlist for the ceremony, particularly attendees from the United States, has been growing.

Former US vice president Dick Cheney and ex-secretary of state Henry Kissinger have confirmed their attendance.

The two former top US politicians join an increasing congregation of former leaders, current politicians, Falklands veterans and a string of celebrities who will pay their respects to the former prime minister.

The pair do not form part of Barack Obama's official presidential delegation, which will be led by George Shultz and James Baker, who both served as secretary of states during the Thatcher era.

No members of the current White House administration are expected to attend.

Also on the increasing list of attendees were King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece, two-times US presidential candidate Ross Perot and Olympics supremo Lord Coe.

However, there will be no official representative from Argentina.

President Cristina Kirchner was not invited, but, in keeping with diplomatic protocol, an invitation was sent to the Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, who declined.

Former South African president FW de Klerk is among the 2,000 guests attending the funeral.

In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, he hailed Lady Thatcher's "honest, open and purposeful leadership" and her ability to convince the majority to "follow that lead and to embrace that vision".

"This she did for Britain, and she changed around the history of Britain," he said.