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From a March 3 meeting of the British Parliament’s House of Lords. Lord Brabazon of Tara is the chairman of committees.

baroness finlay of llandaff: What measures are being considered to improve pest control in the Lords’ part of the Palace of Westminster?

lord brabazon of tara: My Lords, the administration is fully aware of the problem and is taking all appropriate measures. We retain the services of an independent pest-control consultant and a full-time pest controller. The current focus is on poisoning and trapping, blocking of mouse access points, and more frequent cleaning of bars and restaurants to remove food debris. The program was intensified over the February recess, and fewer sightings of mice have been reported since.

baroness finlay: I thank the noble lord for his reply. How many calls have there been to the mouse helpline? Has the accuracy of that information been checked, given that the staff report seeing mice on a daily basis in the eating areas? Has consideration been given to having hypoallergenic cats on the estate? Miss Wilson, when she was a resident superintendent in this palace, had a cat that apparently caught up to sixty mice a night. The corpses were then swept up in the morning. Finally, does the noble lord recognize the fire hazard that mice pose, because they eat through insulating cables? It would be a tragedy for this beautiful palace to burn down for lack of a cat.

lord brabazon: My Lords, there are a number of questions there. I cannot give an answer to the number of calls made to the mouse helpline—if that is its title. I suspect that it would not be a good use of resources to count them up. But I am well aware of the problem of mice, as I said. It is something we take seriously. As for getting a cat, I was not aware that such a thing as a hypoallergenic cat existed. I do not know whether our cat at home is one of those. There are a number of reasons why it is not a good idea to have cats. They would ingest mouse poison when eating poisoned mice, which would not be very nice for them, and there would be nothing to keep them where they are needed or stop them walking around the House on desks in offices, or tables in restaurants and bars—and maybe even in the Chamber itself. Therefore, we have ruled out at this stage the possibility of acquiring a cat or cats.

lord bradshaw of wallingford: I have spoken continually to the staff in the eating places in the House, and I acknowledge that there has been some diminution in the number of mice around. But could I press the noble lord, because further action needs to be taken? I know that this is an old building, but mice are still here, and we’re talking about places where food is served. I have no magic solution, but perhaps the consultant who is being employed might have some answers.

lord brabazon: My Lords, I am well aware that there are still mice around. I saw one in the Bishops’ Bar only yesterday evening. I do not know whether it was the same one that I saw the day before or a different one. It is always difficult to tell the differences between the various mice one sees. We believe that the problem is getting better. Cleaning is one of the measures we are taking, as I outlined in my original answer. As I speak here this afternoon, the Bishops’ Bar and the Guest Room are being Hoovered so we can get rid of the food scraps from lunch. If you were a mouse, you would rather eat the crumbs of a smoked-salmon sandwich than the bait. Therefore, we want to remove the crumbs as quickly as possible.

lord pilkington of oxenford: Why should I and noble Lords trust the Executive to deal with mice when they cannot deal with the economy?

lord brabazon: My Lords, I do not actually deal with the economy. I am glad to say that that would be above my pay grade, whereas trying to deal with the mice is probably just about right for me.

baroness symons of vernham dean: My Lords, I was in total ignorance that there was anything of the nature of a mouse helpline until this question time. Can the chairman of the committees tell us what helplines there are for members of the House on other issues that we do not know about?

lord brabazon: I rather hope that we do not have too many others. I was not going to advertise the existence of the mouse helpline, although it was advertised some time ago. Indeed, I invited members of the House to telephone when they saw mice. The trouble is that when the person at the other end of the line goes to check, very often the mouse has gone elsewhere.

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June 2010

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