Foreign secretary calms fears that Palmerston the cat is EU spy

Written by David Singleton on 24 May 2016 in Diary
Diary

Tory MP Keith Simpson wanted reassurance that the FCO’s chief mouser had been vetted by the security service.

The foreign secretary has moved to reassure MPs that his department’s cat is not a “mole” deployed by the European Commission.

Phillip Hammond personally rebuffed the outlandish suggestion from his Tory colleague Keith Simpson, made during Foreign Office Questions in the House of Commons.

He insisted that Palmerston had been vetted by security services – and also cited the cat’s “100 per cent” attendance record as evidence that he could not be an employee of the Commission.

Palmerston started work as chief mouser at the Foreign Office last month, having arrived from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. The cat is said to have been named after Lord Palmerston, the long-serving foreign secretary who went on to become prime minister at the age of 71.

A Foreign Office statement issued last month said: "Palmerston is HM Diplomatic Service's newest arrival and in the role of FCO Chief Mouser will assist our pest controllers in keeping down the number of mice in our King Charles Street building.”

On Tuesday morning, Simpson suggested that Leave campaigners believed Palmerston may have been tampered with by sinister EU forces in a bid to gather intelligence. Simpson is supporting the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.

Addressing the foreign secretary in the Commons, he said: “There is a serious point here. Can I ask my right honourable friend whether Palmerston has been security cleared or not?

“He may recall that the chancellor’s cat Freya had access to the Foreign Office, Number 10 Downing Street and it was thought that she might have been got at by a foreign power.

“So can I ask him, has he been positively vetted by the security service and scanned for bugs by GCHQ?

“And can my right honourable Friend assure the House – and the more paranoid element in the Brexiters - that he isn’t a long term mole working for the EU Commission.”

Rather than let a junior minister steal the limelight, Hammond opted to answer the question himself.

The foreign secretary told MPs: “He is definitely not a mole. I can cat-egorically assure my honourable friend that Palmerston has been regularly vetted.”

As MPs chortled on the backbenches, Hammond’s colleague Wendy Morton looked less-than-amused as she sat beside him.

“As for being a sleeper, he is definitely a sleeper, I’m told very often in my office,” he added.

“But unlike Freya, who went missing for two years, his attendance record has been 100 per cent and my experts tell me that pretty much rules out of the possibility of him being a commission employee.”

 

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