Yes Minister Quotes

Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.

TV Show: Yes Minister
Bernard Woolley: Minister, can I have a private word with Sir Humphrey?
James Hacker: You may speak freely, Bernie.
Bernard Woolley: Yes... Oh, there was a message for you in the communications room. The VAT man, your 69 returns.
James Hacker: What?
Bernard Woolley: VAT 69.
James Hacker: Oh. Ah! Yes... thanks.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the minister has had almost as many urgent messages as he can take.

TV Show: Yes Minister
James Hacker: We want to build a bright future for our children. We want to build a peaceful and prosperous Britain, a Britain that can hold her head high in the fellowship of nations. This is rather good. Who wrote this?
Godfrey - TV Producer: Actually, it's from the last party political by the leader of the opposition.

TV Show: Yes Minister
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 that are the inevitable concomitant of their exalted position.
James Hacker: Now, whatever made you think I wouldn't want to hear that?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, I thought it might upset you.
James Hacker: How could it? I didn't understand a single word. Humphrey, for God's sake, for once in your life put it into plain English.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: If you insist. You are *not* here to run this Department.
James Hacker: I beg your pardon.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: You are *not* here to run this Department.
James Hacker: I think I am. The people think I am, too.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: With respect, Minister, you are... they are wrong
James Hacker: And who does run this Department?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: I do.

TV Show: Yes Minister
The Master of Ballie College: How might one set about persuading a Minister of the importance of Baillie College?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, I don't know. Why don't you get him down here to a High Table dinner?
The Master of Ballie College: Is he of the intellectual caliber to understand our case?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh yes. Well, surely our case is intelligible to anyone with the intellectual caliber of of Winnie-the-Pooh.
The Master of Ballie College: Quite. And Hacker *is* of the intellectual caliber of Winnie-the-Pooh?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh yes. On his day.

TV Show: Yes Minister
[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.

TV Show: Yes Minister
Jim Hacker: I'd like a new chair. I hate swivel chairs.
Bernard Woolley: It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Minister: one sort folds up instantly; the other sort goes round and round in circles.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: Who else is in this department?
Sir Humphrey: 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 ten Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretaries are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary.
Hacker: Can they all type?
Sir Humphrey: None of us can type. Mrs Mackay types: she's the secretary.
Minister: Pity, we could have opened an agency.
Sir Humphrey: Very droll, Minister.
Hacker: I suppose they all say that, do they?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly not, Minister. Not quite all...

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Bernard: But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt; ignorance has a certain dignity.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[There are two official replies to the Minister's correspondence.]
Jim Hacker: What's the difference?
Bernard: Well, "under consideration" means "we've lost the file"; "under active consideration" means "we're trying to find it".

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[The President of Buranda plans a speech urging the Scots and Irish to fight against "British colonialism".]
Jim Hacker: Humphrey, do you think it is a good idea to issue a statement?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, in practical terms we have the usual six options:
  • One: do nothing.
  • Two: issue a statement deploring the speech.
  • Three: lodge an official protest.
  • Four: cut off aid.
  • Five: break off diplomatic relations.
  • And six: declare war.

Hacker: Which should be it?
Sir Humphrey: Well:
  • If we do nothing, that means we implicitly agree with the speech.
  • If we issue a statement, we'll just look foolish.
  • If we lodge a protest, it'll be ignored.
  • We can't cut off aid, because we don't give them any.
  • If we break off diplomatic relations, then we can't negotiate the oil rig contracts.
  • And if we declare war, it might just look as though we were over-reacting!

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[Frank Weisel is quoting an article in the Express about the fact that Inland Revenue has more employees than the Royal Navy.]
Frank Weisel: "Perhaps the government thinks that a tax is the best form of defence."

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: How many people do we have in this department?
Sir Humphrey: Ummm... well, we're very small...
Hacker: Two, maybe three thousand?
Sir Humphrey: About twenty three thousand to be precise.
Hacker: TWENTY THREE THOUSAND! In the department of administrative affairs, twenty three thousand adminstrators just to administer the other administrators! We need to do a time-and-motion study, see who we can get rid of.
Sir Humphrey: Ah, well, we did one of those last year.
Hacker: And what were the results?
Sir Humphrey: It turned out that we needed another five hundred people.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[There is a government building with a reinforced concrete basement in case of a nuclear war.]
Sir Humphrey: There has to be somewhere to carry on government, even if everything else stops.
Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey: Well, government doesn't stop just because the country's been destroyed! I mean, annihilation’s bad enough without anarchy to make things even worse!
Hacker: You mean you'd have a lot of rebellious cinders.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
The Minister is already double-booked when his wife reminds him of another prior engagement.]
Jim Hacker: [on the phone] Bernard? Yes, it's me. Look, I'm going to have to cancel tomorrow. SwanseaandNewcastle. Well, you see, it's my wife's wedding anniversary tomorrow.
Annie: It's yours, too!
Hacker: And mine, too, actually. Yes, it is...What do you mean, "coincidence"? Don't be silly, Bernard!

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[It is 2 a.m, and Hacker has just made a phone call to a sleepy Sir Humphrey.]
Hacker: [hangs up] Oh, damn! I meant to tell him to come and see me about it before Cabinet.
Annie: Don't ring him now!
Hacker: No, perhaps you're right. It is a bit late.
Annie: Give him another ten minutes.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?
Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.
Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?
Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.
Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.
Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[The Foreign Secretary explains the Napoleon prize.]
Bill: Yes, it's a NATO award given once every five years: gold medal, big ceremony in Brussels, £100 000. The PM's the front runner this time. It's for the statesman who's made the biggest contribution to European unity.
Sir Humphrey: Since Napoleon, that is, if you don't count Hitler.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: Humphrey, do you see it as part of your job to help ministers make fools of themselves?
Sir Humphrey: Well, I never met one that needed any help.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[How to guide ministers to making the right decisions]
Sir Humphrey: If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn't accept it, you must say the decision is "courageous".
Bernard: And that's worse than "controversial"?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes! "Controversial" only means "this will lose you votes". "Courageous" means "this will lose you the election"!

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: One: I am not a "badger-butcher". Two: badgers are not an endangered species. Three: the removal of protective status does not necessarily mean the badgers will be killed. Four: if a few badgers have to be sacrificed for the sake of a master plan that will save Britain's natural heritage - tough!
Lucy: [sarcastically gives a Nazi salute] Ze "master plan", mein Fuhrer! Ze end justifies ze means, does it?!

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[After Sir Humphrey prevents Lucy's nude protest by telling her that the Hayward Spinney badger colony is non-existent]
Hacker: Humphrey, was there one word of truth in that whole story that you told Lucy?
Sir Humphrey: Minister, do you really want me to answer that question?
Hacker: [thinks uneasily] No, I don't think I do.
Sir Humphrey: [smiles] Quite so. Perhaps there are some things it is better for a Minister not to know?

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Sir Humphrey: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to know. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents; they could be captured and tortured.
Bernard: [shocked] You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey: [seriously] By the BBC, Bernard.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: The National Health Service, Humphrey, is an advanced case of galloping bureaucracy!
Sir Humphrey: Oh, certainly not galloping. A gentle canter at the most.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[Sir Humphrey agrees with the union leader that industrial action at St Edward's Hospital would also benefit civil servants.]
Brian Baker: What about the Minister?
Sir Humphrey: The Minister doesn't know his Acas from his NALGO.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[Bernard explains to the Minister the honours available to senior Civil Servants.]
Hacker: Well, what has Sir Arnold to fear, anyway? He's got all the honours he could want, surely?
Bernard: Well, naturally he has his G.
Hacker: G?
Bernard: Yes; you get your G after your K.
Hacker: You speak in riddles, Bernard.
Bernard: Well, take the Foreign Office. First you get the CMG, then the KCMG, then the GCMG; the Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Commander of St Michael and St George, Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. Of course, in the Service, CMG stands for "Call Me God," and KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God."
Hacker: [chuckles] What does GCMG stand for?
Bernard: "God Calls Me God."

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[The Master of Bailey College learns why the honourary doctorate of law should not go to a judge.]
Hacker: A judge?! You don't want to make a judge a doctor of laws! Politicians are the ones who make the laws, and pass the laws! If it wasn't for politicians, judges wouldn't be able to do any judging! They wouldn't have any laws to judge! They'd all be out of work! There'd be queues of unemployed judges! In silly wigs!
Sir Humphrey: [tries to interrupt] I think what the Minister is trying to say is...
Hacker: Besides, it's easy for judges. Judges don't have to lie to television producers, don't have to suck up to journalists, don't have to pretend they like their Cabinet collegues. Do you know something? Well I'll tell you: if judges had to put up with some of my Cabinet colleagues, they'd bring capital punishment back tomorrow! Bloody good thing, too!
Sir Humphrey: [tries to interrupt] Well, exactly, Minister...
Hacker: And I'll tell you another thing: I can't send him [points at Sir Humphrey] to prison. Can't send him to prison! Now, if I were a judge, I could whiz old Humpy off to The Scrubs no trouble. Feet wouldn't touch. Clang, bang, see you in three years' time! One third remission for good conduct. But I can't do that! I have to listen to him! Oh, God! On and on and on! Do you know, some of his sentences are longer than Judge Jeffreys'! No, you don't want to make a judge a doctor of laws.
[Stunned pause]
Master of Balliol College: Beautifully argued, Minister.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Sir Humphrey: And the letters JB are the highest honour in the Commonwealth.
Hacker: JB?
Sir Humphrey: Jailed by the British. Gandhi, Nkrumah, Makarios, Ben Gurion, Kenyatta, Nheru, Mugabe, the list of world leaders is endless, and contains several of our students.
Hacker: Ah - our students? Which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: That's quite beside the point!
Hacker: But I like being beside the point. Humour me. Which college did you go to?
Sir Humphrey: Well, it so happens that I am a Balliol man, but that has nothing to do with it!
Hacker: Oh, of course not! What a thought! [slaps wrist] Naughty, naughty!

TV Show: Yes, Minister
Hacker: Ask Walter Fowler of The Express to meet me in the House tonight for a drink. Annie's bar.
Bernard: What for, Minister?
Hacker: First law of political indiscretion: always have a drink before you leak.

TV Show: Yes, Minister
[Bernard wheels in a petition from the archives against surveillance, containing 24 million signatures.]
Bernard: Shall I file it?
Hacker: Shall you file it? Shred it!
Bernard: Shred it?
Hacker: No one must ever be able to find it again!
Bernard: In that case, Minister, I think it's best I file it.

TV Show: Yes, Minister