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's a load of meaningless drivel. Isn't it?
[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.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: We write him a speech that makes him nail his trousers to the mast.
Bernard Woolley: Oh, you mean nail his colours to the mast.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, nail his trousers to the mast. Then he can't climb down.
James Hacker: Why is it that Ministers can't ever go anywhere without their briefs?
Bernard Woolley: It's in case they get caught with their trousers down.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: I sometimes think our minister doesn't believe that he exists unless he reads about himself in the papers. I'll bet you the first thing he says when he gets into the office is, "Any press reports on my Washington speech?"
Bernard Woolley: How much do you bet?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: A pound.
Bernard Woolley: Done! He won't because he's already asked. In the car on the way back from Heathrow.
[about writing speeches for the minister]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: We can't worry about entertaining people. We are not scriptwriters for a comedian. Well not a professional one, anyway.
James Hacker: You said yourself how important these select committees are. I cannot be seen to mislead them.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: You will not be SEEN to mislead them.
James Hacker: The committee isn't the least bit interested in the nature of truth. They're all MP's!
James Hacker: I'm made to look like I've wasted all the money that everybody else has been saving.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, minister. Nobody else have been saving anything. You ought to know that by now!
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Government policy has nothing to do with common sense.
James Hacker: I have backed you up, Humphrey, in just the same way that you have always backed me up. Isn't that so?
[Sir Humphrey is so shocked he can only utter some unintelligible words]
James Hacker: [to Sir Humphrey] Did you say something?
Bernard Woolley: I think he said "Yes, minister".
Sir Humphrey Appleby: A tiny mistake. The sort that anyone can make.
James Hacker: A tiny mistake? 75,000 pounds? Give me an example of a big mistake.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Letting people find out about it.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, Bernard, have you enjoyed having your Minister away for a week?
Bernard Woolley: Not very much. Makes things very difficult.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Ah, Bernard! A Minister's absence is a godsend! You can do the job properly for once. No silly questions, no bright ideas, no fussing about the papers. I think our Minister doesn't believe he exists unless he's in the papers. I'll bet the first thing he says is, "Any reports on my Washington speech?"
Bernard Woolley: How much?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: A pound.
Bernard Woolley: Done. He won't because he's already asked. In the car on the way back from Heathrow.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: You're learning, Bernard. Sit down. See why a Minister's absence is a good thing?
Bernard Woolley: Yes, but so much work piles up.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: With a couple of days' briefing before he goes and debriefing after, he's out of our hair for a fortnight. If he complains of being uninformed, say it came up while he was away.
Bernard Woolley: Hence so many summit conferences?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: That's the only way the country works! Concentrate all the power at Number 10 then send the PM away to EEC summits, NATO summits, Commonwealth summits, anywhere! Then the Cabinet Secretary can run the country properly.
Bernard Woolley: We ought to see him now.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: What do you think of the Washington speech?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: "British administration as a model of loyalty and efficiency. A ruthless war on waste, cutting bureaucracy to the bone. A lesson Britain can teach the world!"
Bernard Woolley: Can we prove it?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: A good speech isn't one where we can prove he's telling the truth. It's one in which nobody else can prove he's lying!
Bernard Woolley: But even so, I'm sure it was good, but I just wondered whether it might have been boring for the audience.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Of course it was boring! Bored the pants of them! Ghastly to have to sit through it, I should think! Ministers' speeches aren't written for the audience. Delivering a speech is just a formality you go through to get into the papers. We can't worry about entertaining. We're not writing for a comedian. Well, not a professional one. The point is the speech said the right things.
Bernard Woolley: But why say it in public?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: It's vital. Once it's printed, the Minister has to defend us in select committees.
Bernard Woolley: He defends us anyway.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well... Only to a point, Bernard. Once something goes wrong, the Minister's first instinct is to rat on his department. That's why we write him a speech that nails his trousers to the mast.
Bernard Woolley: You mean nail his colours to the mast?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, his trousers. Then he can't climb down!