Saturday, 10 November 2007

From the Heritage Bunker (Episode 3)

Sir Humphrey: Minister, I’m delighted to be able to tell you that the lengthy and arduous negotiations with the Millennium Centre have been entirely successful.

Minister: Excellent news Sir Humphrey. How much are we giving them?

Sir Humphrey: £13.5 million now and an extra £2.5 million a year.

Minister: And how much did they ask for?

Sir Humphrey: £13.5 million now and an extra £2.5 million a year.

Minister: What was our initial offer?

Sir Humphrey: £13.5 million now and an extra £2.5 million a year.

Minister: That doesn't sound much like negotiation to me.

Bernard: Yes it is Minister. Negotiation is about discussions leading to an agreement or settlement. We’ve had discussions and have arrived at a settlement, so technically that's a negotiation.

Minister: Thank you Bernard. Which projects are going to suffer as a result?

Sir Humphrey: None of them, Minister. In fact, we’re going to be able to give extra money to everybody else as well.

Minister: But I thought you told me that this was a tight budget settlement? Isn’t that what we told the press as well? I can almost hear my opponents talking about smoke and mirrors already. Where’s all this extra money coming from?

Sir Humphrey: Well, yes, it is indeed a tight budget settlement. Very tight. Lots of belts will have to be tightened all round, but we’ve managed to get some significant extra money for this department this year despite that. And the initial payment of £13.5 million is being made from previous underspends on a range of other projects, so it's not new money at all.

Minister: So I can announce that I’ve saved the Centre from debt, secured its future, and I can still give extra money to everyone else. There are no losers?

Sir Humphrey: Relatively speaking, exactly so, Minister.

Minister: Relatively speaking?

Bernard: Well, Minister, you could have decided not to save the Millennium Centre, and then the money that you’re using to save it could have been put to other uses, so that the people who are getting extra money could have had extra extra money which they are now not going to get, which means that the amount of extra money that they are getting is less than it could have been so that they have lost some of the extra money but are still getting the rest of the extra money.

Minister: What?

Sir Humphrey: Nobody will notice that, Minister. They’ll all be jolly pleased at what an excellent job I, I mean you, have done in getting them extra money.

Minister: But we have secured the Centre’s future?

Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes, Minister. Well, until the next crisis anyway.

Minister: Next crisis? When will that be?

Sir Humphrey: Hard to say, Minister. It should take them at least a year or two to spend all the money we’ve given them before they start to run up new debts.

Bernard: But there will have been a cabinet re-shuffle by then.

Minister: I see. This pot of underspent money that we’re using – is there more?

Sir Humphrey: In what sense, Minister?

Minister: In the sense of pounds and pennies, cash in the bank, money that I can spend. Is there another sense to money?

Sir Humphrey: Well there are always underspends, Minister, otherwise how would any Government ever be able to find money to deal with an emergency like this. But they can only be used to deal with real emergencies. It would be most unwise to use them for anything else.

Minister: So how do I decide what is a real emergency?

Sir Humphrey: Most Ministers are happy to make that decision when they read about it in the papers, or hear about it on the television. That’s the traditional way of doing things.

Bernard: Usually after someone has leaked confidential information.

Minister: But there are some underspends which I haven't yet spent?

Sir Humphrey: Most probably, Minister, but we wouldn’t find them until we looked for them, and we wouldn’t start auditing the other projects looking for underspends until we knew that we needed the money to deal with an emergency.

Minister: So if, hypothetically, there were to be other underspends, we wouldn’t know about them until we looked for them, and we wouldn’t look for them until we needed them, and we wouldn’t need them until there was a crisis, and there wouldn’t be a crisis until I read about it in the papers?

Sir Humphrey and Bernard: Yes, Minister.

1 comment:

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