Sir Humphrey: I thought your statement on the Millennium Centre went extremely well, Minister.
Minister: Thank you, Sir Humphrey.
Sir Humphrey: Particularly the way in which you transferred the blame to the people who had leaked the document to the media. That usually has the desired effect of diverting attention from the real issue.
Minister: For the time being at least. But I’d still like to know how much it is all going to cost.
Sir Humphrey: Well, which answer would you like, Minister?
Minister: The correct one?
Sir Humphrey: The correct answer to any question always depends on the question, Minister. So before I can give you a correct answer, we need to define the correct question. Perhaps we could start by asking what answer you would like to be able to give?
Bernard: Well, Minister, it’s really very simple. Any aid will be a mixture of grants and loans, and there will be some promises to underwrite costs which may never transpire to be real expenditure at all. Some of the money will be paid immediately and some will be deferred, and some will merely be contingency which may never be called upon. Some might even be in the form of the Arts Council subsidising productions and events, so will never go to the Centre itself at all, or will come from a different line on the budget. So there are a range of possible answers, depending on the question.
Minister: I see. What’s the lowest figure?
Sir Humphrey: I thought that might be the one that you would want, Minister. I already have a small team of civil servants working on the answer for you, and we should have it back in a month or two. Now, perhaps we can turn to more pressing issues. Ess Four See.
Minister: I’m thinking of calling for it to be devolved to the Assembly.
Sir Humphrey: Is that wise, Minister?
Minister: Of course. It’s a Welsh channel, its future should be decided by the Assembly. And it would be a bold statement of the way I intend to increase the powers of the Assembly.
Sir Humphrey: But the costs of S4C are just a pinprick in London; they would look like a substantial part of your budget here in Wales. What if the Assembly were to decide to cut back on spending in order to build more hospitals, for instance?
Minister: Well, we’ll demand that the money currently spent on the channel should be devolved as well, and that it should be ring-fenced so that it can't be spent on anything else.
Bernard: So the Minister in London retains control over how much should be spent by the devolved administration in Cardiff, and gets rid of a problem at the same time.
Sir Humphrey: Bernard! Yes, I think I can probably persuade my colleagues in Whitehall of the merits of that suggestion, Minister. But there are some serious issues facing the channel with a declining number of viewers and an increasing cost per viewer – how do you propose to tackle those?
Minister: Any suggestions?
Sir Humphrey: Well, the real problem, Minister, is that the channel has a very low audience and that makes it difficult to attract advertising revenue. Now, what it really needs to do is to attract a higher audience.
Minister: And how could it do that?
Sir Humphrey: The factor which restricts the audience is the fact that it only currently appeals to those who can speak Welsh. Now if we could only find some way of overcoming that…
Minister: What if it were to become a bilingual channel?
Sir Humphrey: What a brilliant idea, Minister. And a very bold decision. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind.
Bernard: But wouldn’t that look like a betrayal of the principles on which the channel was founded?
Sir Humphrey: Only to a few fringe nationalists. But think of the headlines – Minister thinks the Unthinkable; Minister in Brave New Departure; Minister faces up to the tough decisions needed in government.
Minister: And some good photo opportunities as well?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly Minister.
Minister: With Superted on one side and Sam Tân on the other?
Sir Humphrey and Bernard: Yes, Minister.