Yes Minister
Site Search
Search for
Advanced Search

Yes Minister


[Jim Hacker is being introduced to his new position as Minister]
James Hacker: "Who else is in this department?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Well briefly, Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary, I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are 10 Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing 2 Parliamentary Under Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary."
James Hacker: "Do they all type?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "No. Mrs. McKylie types. She's the secretary."

[the Minister asks for a different chair for his desk]
Bernard Woolley: "It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Ministers: one sort that folds up instantly, the other sort goes round and round in circles."

James Hacker: "What am I going to do with all this correspondence?"
Bernard Woolley: "You do realize you don't actually have to, Minister."
James Hacker: "Don't I?"
Bernard Woolley: "Not if you don't want to, we can draft an official reply."
James Hacker: "What's an official reply?"
Bernard Woolley: "It just says 'The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter and we say something like The matter is under consideration', or even if we feel so inclined 'under active consideration.'"
James Hacker: "What's the difference?"
Bernard Woolley: "Well, 'under consideration' means we've lost the file, 'under active consideration' means we're trying to find it."

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "It must be hard for a political adviser to understand this, but I'm merely a civil servant. I simply do as I am instructed by my master."
James Hacker: "What happens when a Minister is a woman, what'll you call her?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Yes, that is rather interesting. We sought an answer to that point when I was Principal Private Secretary and Dr. Edith Summerskill - as she then was - was appointed Minister in 1947. I didn't quite like to refer to her as my mistress."
James Hacker: "What was the answer?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Oh, we're still waiting for it."

James Hacker: "This is a democracy. And the persons don't like it."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "The persons are ignorant and misguided."
James Hacker: "Humphrey. It was the persons who elected me."
[Humphrey nods]

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Politicians like to panic, they need activity. It's their substitute for achievement."

[Hacker is about to ask for advice from his predecessor, a member of the opposition party]
James Hacker: "The opposition aren't the opposition."
Annie Hacker: "No of course not, silly of me. They are just called the opposition."
James Hacker: "They are only the opposition in exile. The Civil Service is the opposition in residence."

James Hacker: "Who do you serve Humphery, God or Mamon?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "I serve you, minister."

[Sir Humphrey has shooed Hacker out of the office of a colleague]
James Hacker: "Bernard, how did Sir Humphrey know I was with Dr. Cartwright?"
Bernard Woolley: "God moves in a mysterious way."
James Hacker: "Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, OK."
Bernard Woolley: "Will you tell him or shall I?"

Bernard Woolley: "Well it is understood if Ministers want to know anything it will be brought to their notice. If they go out looking for information they might... oh well, they might..."
James Hacker: "Jim Hacker:... find it?"

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "If local authorities don't send us the statistics that we ask for, than government figures will be a nonsense."
James Hacker: "Why?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "They will be incomplete."
James Hacker: "But government figures are a nonsense anyway."
Bernard Woolley: "I think Sir Humphrey wants to ensure they are a complete nonsense."

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Minister, I have something to say to you which you may not like to hear."
James Hacker: "Why should today be any different?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Minister, the traditional allocation of executive responsibilities has always been so determined as to liberate the ministerial incumbent from the administrative minutiae by devolving the managerial functions to those whose experience and qualifications have better formed them for the performance of such humble offices, thereby releasing their political overlords for the more onerous duties and profound deliberations which are the inevitable concomitant of their exalted position."
James Hacker: "I wonder what made you think I didn't want to hear that?"

Betty Oldham: "Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy."
Betty Oldham: "Well, that is a load of meaningless drivel. Isn't it?"

James Hacker: "So when this next comes up at Question Time, you want me to tell Parliament that it's their fault that the Civil Service is too big?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "But it is the truth, Minister."
James Hacker: "I don't want the truth. I want something I can tell Parliament!"

James Hacker: "That is the last interview I give for a school magazine; she asked some very difficult questions."
Annie Hacker: "Not difficult, just innocent. She was assuming there was some moral basis to your activities."
James Hacker: "Well, there is."
Annie Hacker: "Oh Jim, don't be silly."

James Hacker: "Fortunately Bernard, most of our journalists are so incompetent that they have the gravest difficulty in finding out that today is Wednesday."
Bernard Woolley: "It's actually Thursday, Minister."

[a journalist is trying to phrase Hacker's leaking of information to the press]
Walter Fowler: "How would you like to be an informed source?"
James Hacker: "OK... informed source."
Walter Fowler: "It's quite a joke really, isn't it? Describing someone as informed when his Permanent Secretary is Sir Humphrey Appleby."

[on Hacker's planned visit to a inner city farm]
Bill Pritchard: "The Sun specifically asked if you could be photographed amongst the donkeys."
James Hacker: "I'm not sure about the donkeys. What do you think, Bernard?"
Bernard Woolley: "Well even if the Sun has no ulterior motive, it will be a gift for Private Eye. You with a crowd of other donkeys. I mean, that's what they would say, Minister. Or: 'A meeting of the Inner Cabinet.'"

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Didn't you read the Financial Times this morning?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Never do."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Well you're a banker, surely you read the Financial Times?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Can't understand it. Full of economic theory."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Why do you buy it?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Oh, you know, it's part of the uniform."

[Sir Humphrey is interviewing a perspective appointee]
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "So it all boils down to the Industry Co-partnership Committee. Still, I find that quite acceptable."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Well, it is within the gift of my Minister, and you would only put in appearances once or twice a month."
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Are there lots of papers?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Yes, but it wouldn't be awfully necessary to read them."
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Then I wouldn't have anything to say at the monthly meetings."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Splendid, I can see you're just the chap I'm looking for."

[talking about the abbreviations of the honours CMG, KCMG and GCMG]
Bernard Woolley: "Of course in the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for Kindly Call Me God."
James Hacker: "What does GCMG stand for?"
Bernard Woolley: "God Calls Me God."

James Hacker: "When did a civil servant last refuse an honour?"
Bernard Woolley: "Well I think there was somebody in the Treasury that refused a Knighthood."
James Hacker: "Good God. When?"
Bernard Woolley: "I think it was 1496."
James Hacker: "Why?"
Bernard Woolley: "He'd already got one."

[talking about a bank's building plans for a new skyscraper]
James Hacker: "I see, it's just profits, isn't it, Sir Desmond?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Not just profits, it's profits."
James Hacker: "Don't you think of anything but money?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "No, why?"
James Hacker: "What about beauty?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Beauty? This is a building, not an oil painting."
James Hacker: "And the environment?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Oh yes, I promise you we'll make sure it is part of the environment. It is bound to be once it's there, isn't it?"

Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Surely once a Minister has made his decision, that's it, isn't it?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "What on earth gave you that idea?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Surely a decision is a decision."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Only if it is the decision you want. If not it is just a temporary setback."

[discussing property owned by the Department of Administrative Affairs]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Ladysmith House is top secret."
James Hacker: "How can a seven storey building in Walthamstow be top secret?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Where there's a will, there's a way."

[discussing a hospital that has 500 administrators, but no doctors, nurses, or patients]
James Hacker: "You think it is functioning now?"
Mrs. Rogers: "Minister, it is one of the best run hospitals in the country. It is up for the Florence Nightingale Award."
James Hacker: "And what is to praise that?"
Mrs. Rogers: "It is won by the most hygienic hospital in the area."

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Surveillance is an indispensable weapon in the battle against organized crime."
James Hacker: "You're not describing politicians as organized crime?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "No... well, disorganized crime too of course."

[a very successful petition on electronic surveillance has just become politically damaging]
Bernard Woolley: "Shall I file it?"
James Hacker: "File it? Shred it!"
Bernard Woolley: "Shred it?"
James Hacker: "Nobody must ever be able to find it again."
Bernard Woolley: "In that case, Minister, I think it's best I file it."

[responding to an inflammatory speech by a foreign diplomat]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "There are essentially six options. One, ignore it, two, file a protest, three, issue a statement condemning it, four, cut off aid, five, sever diplomatic relations, six, declare war. Now, if we ignore it, we tacitly acknowledge it, if we file a protest it'll be ignored, if we issue a statement it will seem weak, we can't cut off aid because we're not giving any, if we sever relations we risk losing the oil contract and if we declare war... people might just think we're overreacting."

James Hacker: "You know what the average Common Market official is like? They've got the flexibility of the Germans, the organising ability of the Italians and the modesty of the French. And that's topped up by the humour of the Belgians, the generosity of the Dutch and the intelligence of the Irish."

[discussing the EEC]
James Hacker: "The trouble with Brussels is not internationalism, it's too much bureaucracy."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "But the bureaucracy is a consequence of the internationalism. Why else would there be an English Commissioner with a French Director-General immediately below him, and an Italian Chef-du-Division reporting to the Frenchman and so on down the line."
James Hacker: "Oh, I agree."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "It is like the Tower of Babel."
James Hacker: "I agree."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "No, it's even worse, it is like the United Nations."
James Hacker: "I agree."
Bernard Woolley: "Then perhaps, if I may interject, you are in fact in agreement."
James Hacker & Sir Humphrey Appleby: "No we're not!"

Sir Humphrey Appleby: "You see, the British foreign office has had the same basic goal for at least the last five hundred years, and that is to create a disunited Europe. In that cause, we've fought with the Germans against the French and Spanish, with the Turkish and French against the Russians, and with the French and Russians against the Germans and Italians. It's the old divide and rule, you see, that's why we want to break up the European Union. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we're free to make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing. We can set the Spanish against the Germans, the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians. Foreign office is terribly pleased, it's just like old times."
James Hacker: "But if that's true, why is the foreign office pushing for higher membership?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "I'd have thought that was obvious. The more members an organization has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes."
James Hacker: "What appalling cynicism."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Yes, minister. We call it diplomacy."

[on the 1938 Munich Agreement]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "It occurred before certain important facts were known, and couldn't happen again."
James Hacker: "What important facts?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Well, that Hitler wanted to conquer Europe."
James Hacker: "I thought that everybody knew that."
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Not the Foreign Office."

Bernard Woolley: "How was Watergate different?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "It was in America, Bernard."

Sir Humprey Appleby: "It is necessary to get behind someone in order to stab them in the back."

Bernard Woolley: "He's coming round now."
James Hacker: "Why, did he faint?"

[the Minister has just discovered the gift he received while visiting a school was made from stolen lumber]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "I can just see the headline now: 'Minister sits on fence so long he becomes one.'"

[the Home Secretary has been forced to resign after a drink-driving incident]
James Hacker: "What will happen to him?"
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "Well, I gather he was as drunk as a lord. So, after a discreet interval, they'll probably make him one."

[there has arisen the possibility of James Hacker becoming Prime Minister]
Sir Numprey Appleby: "How would you feel about your present master as the next Prime Minister?"
[Bernard looks at his watch]"
Sir Numprey Appleby: "Are you in a hurry?"
Bernard Woolley: "No, I was just checking my watch to see it wasn't April 1st!"