Yes Minister (1980–1984): Season 2, Episode 2 - Doing the Honours - full transcript

The Minister is appalled when, on the advice of his civil servants, he can't make a modest 5% to his department's budget. To Sir Humphrey's great disbelief, the Minister decides to recommend only those civil servants for the Queen's honors list who can find the 5% cut in their budgets. On another matter, Appleby is approached by the Master of his Oxford college who is finding it impossible to enroll students now that the Minister has instructed that all foreign students must pay the full cost of their studies. Hoping for an exemption from the requirement, they invite the Minister to an alcohol-fueled dinner and the promise of an honorary Doctor of Laws seems to do the trick.

We can't economise in accommodation?

(WOMAN) 'Fraid not, Minister.

- Data-processing equipment?
- Not possible.

- The further education budget?
- Sadly, it can't be.

At least the universities won't cost us as much,

with overseas students paying fees
covering education costs.

- Unless you make exceptions...?
- No, sorry, no exceptions.

At least, that's one saving.

- Minister, it's...
- Yes, of course.

That's all, I'm afraid. Meeting over.

- Thank you
- Thank you.

Before Sir Humphrey comes,

Number 10 asked you to approve
recommendations for the honours list.

That's the eighth time you've asked.

Are honours the most serious
concern of this department?

They are to the people on the list.
Some haven't slept for days!

What are they worried about?
Ministers never veto honours.

It's possible.
They're worried about the delay.

How do people know they're listed?
It's marked "Strictly Confidential".

Oh, Minister...

Silly of me.

If they'd put some of that effort
into cutting expenditure...

How can I make people want economies

in the same way they want OBEs and KCBs?

I've been thinking... No, no, no.

- What?
- No, no, nothing...

Spit it out.

It's not my place, and I couldn't
possibly recommend it...

Suppose you were to refuse
to recommend any honours

for civil servants who hadn't cut
their budgets by 5%...?

- Bernard!
- Sorry, Minister...

No, Bernard! It's brilliant!

It's the answer. It's the only hold
we have over the civil servants.

I can't stop their pay rises or their promotions.

I don't even write their reports,
but I can withhold their honours!

- Well done.
- You thought of it, Minister.

- No, no, you thought of it.
- No, you thought of it.


Just a touch, please. Thank you very much.

Splendid dinner. I always enjoy my visits here.

I'm afraid this could be your last.

Why? Did I pass the port the wrong way?

- Tell him, Bursar.
- The college's going to the wall.

It's your new policy of charging
overseas students full rates.

Other Oxford colleges can cope,

but we've always had many
overseas students here at Baillie.

You simply charge them a full fee, no problem.

Unless they can't pay ?4,000 a year.
They won't come.

I've been all over the USA, selling
them the idea of an Oxford education.

Africa is crawling with British professors

frantically trying to flog
sociology courses to the natives.

And India and the Middle East.
Competition is cut-throat.

Why not fill up vacancies
with British undergraduates?

I don't think that's awfully funny, Humphrey.

- I wasn't trying to be funny.
- Anything but home students!

- Why?
- We only get 500 a head for them.

We'd have to take 400
to replace a mere 50 foreigners.

The staff/student ratio would go from 1:10 to 1:34.

We'd have classrooms, dormitories...
like Wormwood Scrubs!

Or the University of Sussex!

The Master thinks the pictures
may fetch ?20-30,000.

The pictures and silver together

might just pay the mortgage interest.

Dear, oh, dear!

Or we could get the Government
to treat us as an exception.

Interestingly, Humphrey,

it seems to be your Minister
who has the authority.

How might one persuade a Minister
of the importance of Baillie College?

Why not get him down to a High Table dinner?

Is he of the intellectual calibre
to understand our case?

Oh, yes!

It's intelligible to anyone

with the intellectual calibre of Winnie the Pooh!


And Hacker is of the intellectual
calibre of Winnie the Pooh?

Oh, yes!

On his day.

- Morning, Minister.
- Morning, Humphrey.

Two things, Minister.

Firstly, the departmental
recommendations for the honours list.

- The honours list again!
- Yes, Minister.

- Let's leave that for the moment.
- We can't leave it, Minister.

- It's getting near the five weeks.
- Five weeks?

All recipients are notified five weeks before.

It gives them time to refuse.

When did a civil servant last refuse an honour?!

Somebody in the Treasury refused a knighthood.

- When?
- I think it was 1496.

- Why?
- He'd already got one.

- If you've approved the list...
- Humphrey...

...did you know that 20%
of honours go to civil servants?

A fitting tribute to their devotion to duty.

That's what they get paid for.

The rest of us have to do
something special to get an honour.

They work for years with the mentally
handicapped to get an MBE.

Your knighthoods simply come up with the rations.

Minister, her Majesty's
civil servants spend their lives

working for a modest wage
and at the end retire into obscurity.

Honours are a small reward for a lifetime of loyal,

self-effacing discretion
and devoted service to the nation.

- "A modest wage"?
- Alas, yes.

You get over ?30,000 a year!

- That's ?7,000 more than I get.
- But still relatively modest.

Relative to whom?

Elizabeth Taylor, for example.

You are not relative to Elizabeth Taylor.

There are important differences.

Indeed, yes. She didn't get a first at Oxford.

And retire into obscurity?!

You take a massive pension
and become directors of oil companies.

But very obscure directors.

You're in no danger of the sack.
In industry, you get the boot.

In the civil service,
if you screw up, I get the boot!

- Very droll, Minister. The list...
- No, Humphrey.

I'll not approve any honour
to any civil servant who hasn't earned it.

- What do you mean, "earned it"?
- I mean "earned it".

- Done something to deserve it.
- But that's unheard of!

My new policy is to withhold
all honours from civil servants

who do not make a cut
in their budgets of 5% per year.

Your silence indicates approval?

It does not! Where did you get
that preposterous idea?


...just came to me.
- It's ridiculous! Unheard of!

The whole idea is... It's...

It strikes at the very roots of...

It's the beginning of the end!

The thin end of the wedge! A Bennite solution!

What next? Abolition of the monarchy?

Don't be absurd.

The system has worked so well in the past.

It hasn't.

- Give it a fair trial.
- I thought you might say that...

The Most Noble Order of the Garter
was founded in 1348 by Edward III.

It's at the end of its trial period now.

Minister, if you block honours pending economies,

you might create a dangerous precedent.

If we do the right thing now,
we'll have to do the right thing next time?

- Nothing would get done at all!
- On the contrary.

- Many things must be done, but...
...nothing done for the first time!

No, Minister!

I'm fully seized of your aims,
and I'll try to put them into practice.

To that end,

I recommend we set up a committee
with broad terms of reference,

so we're in a position to think
through the various implications

and decide based on long-term considerations

rather than rush prematurely
into precipitate and ill-conceived actions

which might have unforeseen repercussions.

You mean "no"?

I mean, as far as one can see,
in the fullness of time...

No, no, no, Humphrey.

You know me: Action now!

(MUTTERS) Action now.

Nobody in their right mind can want honours.

They encourage sycophancy, snobbery, jealousy,

and civil servants shouldn't get them all!

- But Minister...
- No, no! I'm sorry. I have decided.

- Your other point?
- Other point?

- You had two.
- Did I?

Yes, I'm sorry. The shock!

Yesterday, I had representations
from Baillie College, Oxford.

Grants for overseas students...
They'll lose millions a year.

They must just take more British students.

Nothing would please them more, but you see...

...Baillie has many foreign students,

and there could be repercussions

at the schools of tropical medicine,
international law,

and the Arabic department
may have to close down.

We can't educate foreigners
at the taxpayer's expense.

Not just foreigners.

If the diplomatic service had nowhere
to immerse its recruits,

the results could be catastrophic,
with a pro-Israeli Foreign Office!

What would happen to our oil policy?

Its recruits must go elsewhere.

Where else would they learn Arabic?


Baillie College has an outstanding record.

- It's filled our jails for years.
- Jails?

Yes. The letters "JB" are the finest
honour in the Commonwealth.

- "JB"?
- "Jailed by the British".

Gandhi, Nkrumah, Makarios,

Ben-Gurion, Kenyatta, Nehru, Mugabe.

The list of leaders is endless
and contains several of our students.

"Our students"?

Humphrey... which college did you go to?

That is quite beside the point.

I like being beside the point.

Humour me, Humphrey.
Which college did you go to?

Was it Baillie, by any strange coincidence?

It so happens... I am a Baillie man,
but that has nothing to do with it!

No, of course not.

Perish the thought. Naughty.

Yes? The division, Minister.

That rather settles it. No more time.

Am I voting "aye" or "no"?

- "No". It's a...
- I don't want to know what it is.

I don't want to go through the wrong door.



Humphrey! Do sit down.

Hope you don't mind my dragging you here.

- No, please.
- I was worried about your Minister.

Linking honours to economies.

That? A lot of nonsense.

Good. You mean it's not true?

Not exactly. That is, he did just mention it.

- But...
- But what?

I can't find any effective arguments against it.

- It's the thin end of the wedge.
- That's what I said.

- A Bennite solution.
- I said that.

- Where will it end?
- That's what I said.

No, it's intolerable, but...


I'm not reprimanding you,
I don't know the facts well enough.

I'd like your assurance
that he won't be putting it into practice.

I certainly hope he won't.

I'm not sure that hopes are good enough.

If he applied it to your department,
the contagion would spread!

Every department!

- Presumably, we can count on you?
- I shall certainly try.

- But... it's rather tricky.
- You know what you're doing.

This could cause people
to reflect on your soundness.

I've no doubts about you myself, but...

- I thought a chat would be useful.
- Absolutely. Thank you.

By the way, I had our college
master on the phone.

- He said you dined at Baillie.
- Right!

I assured them your Minister would
treat them as a special case.

Yes... Yes...

I've got the Minister coming
to a benefactors' dinner.

Good. Sound man.

I must be getting over to Number 10.
Thanks for dropping in.



Sir Humphrey saw the Cabinet Secretary
and got the most frightful wigging.

Really tore him off a strip because
of your economies-honours scheme.

- Your scheme.
- We've been through all that.

Sorry. My scheme.

Why wig someone as high up as Humphrey?

Normally, it's civilised,
but this time it was no-holds-barred.

Sir Arnold said he wasn't
actually reprimanding him.

- Bad as that, was it?
- Yes.

He suggested some people
might not think he was sound.

- A real punch-up!
- Indeed.

What has Sir Arnold to fear?
He has all the honours he could want.

- He has his "G".
- "G"?

- You get your "G" after your "K".
- You speak in riddles.

First you get the CMG,
then the KCMG and the GCMG,

the Command of the Order
of St Michael and St George,

Knight Grand Cross of St George.

In the service, CMG stands for "Call Me God".

And KCMG for "Kindly Call Me God".


"God Calls Me God".

Why should Sir Arnold worry?
He has his full quota of honours.

Nowhere near!

There's a peerage, the CH,
the OM, the Knight of the Thistle...

Knight of the Thistle? Who for?

- Scotsmen and donkeys?!
- There's a distinction.

You haven't met the Scottish Nationalists!

- How do they award the Thistle?
- A committee sits on it.

Does Humphrey think I'll change university policy

over High Table dinner?

I believe Baillie College give
a very good dinner, Minister.

- How much further?
- A few minutes. The M40's good.

So's the M4...

Why did we get two really good roads to Oxford

before any to Southampton
or Dover or any of the ports?

Nearly all our Permanent Secretaries
went to Oxford, Minister,

and most Oxford colleges give very good dinners.

- The Cabinet allow that?
- Certainly not.

They said no motorway to take
civil servants to Oxford,

unless there was one to take
Ministers hunting in the shires.

That's why the M1 stopped in Leicestershire!

Oh, come!

What about the M11 just completed?

Doesn't Cambridge give as good dinners?

Yes, of course, but it's been years

since Transport had a Permanent
Secretary from Cambridge.


For a college on the edge
of bankruptcy, not a bad dinner!

The Fitzwalter Dinner is paid for by endowment,

a great 16th-century benefactor.

Most nights we eat Mother's Pride
and processed cheese.

You need a 20th-century benefactor.

- Interesting you should say that.
- Why?

Benefactors are few and far between.

Isaac Wolfson is only the second man
to have a college named after him

- at Oxford and Cambridge.
- Who's the first?


- Jesus?
- Jesus... Christ.

Some of our most revered benefactors are men

who saved the college
from the depredations of Government.

Their names are remembered
and hallowed for centuries.

- It's a sort of immortality.
- Really?

What did these benefactors do?

Take Sir William de Vere, his coat
of arms are there and in chapel.

He diverted the baronial army
away from Baillie in the 15th century.

He had the soldiers billetted
at St George's College.

- I didn't know there was a St George's.
- There isn't. Not since that.

Then, there's George Monkton,
whom Monkton Quad's named after.

He stopped Cromwell melting
all the college silver down

to pay for his army.

He told them the silver was better
quality at Trinity, Cambridge!

Now, it looks like there'll be
no college left to remember.

Unless we can solve
the problem of overseas students.


Well, of course, one would like to... oneself.

Er... help one's friends.

Help the college.

- Nothing to do with the honour.
- Of course not! Ignoble thought.

The Minister believes
it's a politician's duty to help others.

Absolutely. Name of the game.

That's why we go into politics, to help others.

I'm an idealist, nothing to do with the honour.

Most of the honour comes after you're dead.

Not much satisfaction from having
your name on the silver sconce

when you're six feet under!

Incidentally, Master,
to change the subject completely...

...when do you award
your honorary doctorates?

The ceremony's not for a few months,
but we have to decide in two weeks.

- Doctorate?
- Aren't they decided?

There is one Doctorate of Law still to be decided.

We're wondering whether it should go
to a judge or someone in Government.

(SLURS) Judge?!

You don't want to make a judge a Doctor of Law!

The politicians make the laws and pass the laws.

If it wasn't for politicians,
the judges wouldn't be able to judge.

There'd be no laws to judge!

- Yes, indeed.
- Quite!

They'd have nothing to do.
Queues of unemployed judges... silly wigs!

It's all right for judges.

They don't have to suck up
to TV producers, lie to journalists.

They don't have to pretend
to like their Cabinet colleagues.

I'll tell you something else...

...if judges had to put up
with some of my colleagues,

they'd bring capital punishment back tomorrow!

Bloody good job, too!

I'll tell you another thing...

...I can't send him to prison.

Can't send him to prison.

If I were a judge, I could whiz
old Humpy off to the Scrubs.

Feet wouldn't touch. Clang bang!
See you in three years.

One third remission for good conduct.
I can't do that!

I have to listen to him.

Oh, God!

On and on and on!

Some of his sentences
are longer than Judge Jeffreys'!

No, no, no. Politicians are much more deserving.

You don't want to give
your doctory honourates to judges.

Definitely not!

Beautifully argued, Minister.

I see now... we shouldn't give it to a judge.

- You put the case most expertly.
- Almost like a Doctor of Law.

I can see you there now in the Sheldonian,

standing there in those magnificent crimson robes,

receiving your doctorate in front
of an assembly of eminent scholars.

(HUMPHREY) Wonderful.
(MASTER) Marvellous.

How funny you should say that.

I was just thinking the same thing.

Morning, Minister. Morning, Bernard.

Most enjoyable dinner last night.

I wonder if we could have
a private chat. Forgive us, Bernard.


...the master of Baillie has asked me to enquire

whether you'd accept an honorary doctorate of law.

Me? Good heavens!

- It's... not an offer.
- No, of course not.

Of course, in view of your
well-known hostility to honours...

Don't be silly. This is quite different.

Not entirely, Minister.

It's a matter of accepting it
without doing anything to deserve it,

as you might put it
in your refreshingly blunt fashion.

I'm a Cabinet Minister!

- Isn't that what you're paid for?
- Yes, but... No!

Yes, but...

I can't refuse a vote of confidence
in the Government, not just oneself.

No, quite. As I say, it's not certain, it's...


Humphrey, to change the subject completely,

I'd like to do what I can for Baillie
in this overseas students business.

Oh, good!

But wouldn't I need a pretext... a reason?

No, Minister, no problem.

The Palace has been under pressure
from certain African leaders.

We can't embarrass the Palace,

so we'll redesignate Baillie
as a Commonwealth Education Centre.

But where am I to find the money?
I'm set on 5% cuts across the board.

If that's achieved, anything's possible.

- The committee are waiting.
- Very well, show them in.

I suppose we could achieve the cuts
in this department,

if the absurd idea of linking
honours to cuts were to be shelved.

- I see.
- Yes...

(HUMPHREY) Thank you, Bernard.
(HACKER) Morning.

Now, minutes of the previous meeting?

Matters arising: Accommodation.

Oh, yes!

I'm happy to be able to tell you
that we have found a 5% cut,

by selling an office in High Wycombe.

- Oh, really?
- Yes.

- Yes, very good.
- Yes.

Stationery acquisition?

We've discovered a new stock control
system to reduce expenditure.

- By how much?
- About 5%, wasn't it?

Excellent! Parks and Forestry?

If we delay the new computers,
we can make a saving.

- By how much?
- Yes...?

- About 5%.
- Yes, about 5%.

- Really?
- That cuts data processing, too.

- By...?
- By...

By about 5%.

- This is most satisfying.
- Yes.

Incidentally, while I think of it,

have you finished with the list
for the honours secretary?

Yes, Humphrey. No problem there.

Bernard will give it to you.

- Thank you, Bernard.
- All right, Humphrey?

Yes, Doctor... er, Minister.