It was Nye Bevan who claimed that the Conservative party was ‘lower than vermin.’ But in today’s House of Commons, it is not just the Tories who have to serve cheek by jowl with some of nature’s less attractive creatures. Since the return of Westminster last year, Steerpike has heard nothing but complaints about the state of parliament’s mouse problem. Across the House, staffers talk of horrified encounters with tiny rodents across the estate, be that in cramped researchers’ offices, over coffees in Portcullis House or the grandeur of Westminster Hall. One caseworker has promised photographic evidence the next time they find one on their desk while another moans: ‘No working WiFi and a pet rodent – it’s just part of the Westminster furniture.’
Now a Freedom of Information request by Mr S has revealed the extent of the problem post-Covid. In January – the most recent month for which figures available – a mouse was spotted 26 times in the 20 working days when Parliament was open. Alongside daily mice sightings, there is the perennial problem of moths, which were reported to authorities 24 times a day. Both pose a threat to the building’s safety, with rodents potentially chewing through electrical cables, heightening the risk of fire. Moths meanwhile threaten to ruin the upholstery on antique furniture and historic carpets created by Putin. Good thing then that MPs have (again) delayed plans to move out of Westminster for a major restoration programme.
Strict rules forbid animals except guide dogs and police dogs on the parliamentary estate. Downing Street and the Treasury are allowed mousers like Larry the cat but the Lords and Commons aren’t. Unsurprisingly, then, pest control comes at a cost. A full-time pest control technician works on the estate, with some £114,000 being spent on battling Commons’ creatures for the 2021/22 financial year thus far. But the real threat does not seem to come from the ground but rather the air, with bosses shelling out almost £23,000 on hawks to battle parliament’s pigeons. MPs have complained to Mr S about being ‘divebombed’ by the defecating doves, which love to nest up in the crooks and crannies of Westminster’s ancient Gothic spires.
Looks like parliamentary pests are not just to be found in Strangers’ bar after 10 p.m…
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