Debate Over Britain's Mouse in the House

A brazen group of mice has won a temporary reprieve from British lawmakers.

As the critters became more noticeable in the tea and dining rooms of the House of Commons, one member hatched what he thought was a purrfect solution — get a cat.

Amid the cat calls, a rare show of cross-party unity emerged. Members tired of run-ins with increasingly bold rodents joined forces to sponsor a motion. The sponsors called it "a fiscally prudent" way to tackle the problem.

But Commons Leader Robin Cook last week refused the motion because he feared a feline might edge elected members off the library sofas. Besides, Cook, the former foreign secretary, let it be known he prefers dogs. Scottish terriers, to be more precise.

‘Paws’ to Reflect

Confused by these parliamentary cat and mouse games?

Dogged debates of this nature are par for the course in British politics. Take for example the House of Lords. As talk of the institution's very extinction rages in the press, peers stubbornly continue to take hours to debate such matters as what to put on the official Christmas card.

Some observers say it's up to the members of Parliament to clean up their act. MPs, they say, tend to exacerbate the pest problem with their notorious crumb-dropping throughout the great halls of power.

A televised appearance by one of the rodents in the same chamber where Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks recently drew national attention to the problem.

But some members refuse to be backed into a corner.

"The fact is in an outside restaurant this would be a serious environment health matter," MP John Barrett told the BBC.

Several MPs will push for a committee investigation next week.