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Departmental Estate: Rodent Eradication

Volume 611: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2016

12. What steps he is taking to eradicate rodents and other vermin in his Department’s Whitehall estate. (905050)

The FCO facilities management contract covers pest control activities. However, the continued presence of mice in the FCO main building has given my officials “paws” for thought. After careful consideration, we appointed Palmerston the cat last month as chief mouser to the FCO to complement the work of our contractor. I am pleased to report to the House that he has settled in “purr-fectly” and is performing his duties more than satisfactorily.

I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on following my excellent example in Speaker’s House, where for five years we have had a first-class cat who has done the necessary. Its name, of course, is Order. [Laughter.]

I am sure the whole House will welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, and also the arrival of Palmerston, the FCO’s rodent killer, but there is a serious point here. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether Palmerston has been security cleared or not? He may recall that the Chancellor’s cat, Freya, had access to the Foreign Office and No. 10 Downing Street, and it was thought that she might have been “got at” by a foreign power. May I ask him: has Palmerston been positively vetted by the security service and scanned for bugs by GCHQ? Can my right hon. Friend assure the House, and the more paranoid element of the Brexiters, of Palmerston’s British provenance and that he is not a long-term mole working for the EU Commission?

He is definitely not a mole and I can “cat-egorically” assure my right hon. Friend that Palmerston has been regularly vetted. As for being a sleeper, he is definitely a sleeper—I am told very often in my office. But unlike Freya, who went missing for two years, his attendance record has been 100%. My experts tell me that that pretty much rules out the possibility of him being a Commission employee. I should also tell the House that while Palmerston has so far caught only three mice, his Twitter account, “Diplomog” has attracted 8,158 followers, with a rate of growth that implies he will overtake me by the summer recess.