Sir Frank: So, Humphrey, how can I help you?
Sir Humphrey: Good of you to see me Frank, I know how busy it gets in the Cabinet Office. To put it in a nutshell, my Minister is determined to press ahead with an Elco on the Welsh language which goes much further than any of the Permanent Secretaries can agree.
Sir Frank: This sole is excellent. Elco? Oh, yes, I remember. One of our better ideas, eh? It's been pretty effective in stopping the Assembly getting above itself, hasn't it?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly it has – it’s worked almost exactly as we intended. Taken them almost twelve months to get the first one agreed.
Sir Frank: Excellent. So what does he want this, er, ‘Elco’ thing to do?
Sir Humphrey: More wine, Frank? He has this view that some of the larger companies in the private sector should be compelled to allow their customers to use Welsh if they wish.
Sir Frank: Well we clearly can’t have that, can we? Top management wouldn’t know what was going on in their own companies if staff started using Welsh. I mean, how many of the people at Eton with us spoke Welsh? Not one as far as I can remember. Not that admitted it anyway.
Sir Humphrey: Precisely, Frank. It’s bad enough that the Civil Service is expected to employ a few senior Welsh speakers to deal with queries. I can tell you, it makes life extremely difficult for us – they all seem to have attended comprehensive schools, and then they join the civil service and expect to reach the same levels as our other recruits. We can’t impose that sort of constraint on businesses as well. Think what it would do to the boardrooms.
Sir Frank: And our prospects for a few directorships after retirement as well. Why haven’t you got him to back down?
Sir Humphrey: I’ve tried, believe me. But on this one, he actually seems to be behaving as though he has a mind of his own. He says that that he’s promised to act on the matter, and, for some reason, he believes that what he said during the election in some way binds him!
Sir Frank: He obviously didn’t go to a proper school then?
Sir Humphrey: Of course not, that’s part of my problem. Almost none of the members seem to have had a decent education. They just don’t understand the way things work. The question is, what can I do?
Sir Frank: Glass of port? They have an excellent selection of vintages here. How about some diversionary tactics? Get him to re-hash a few old announcements. Find something he desperately wants, and give him the choice. Usually works.
Sir Humphrey: Thank you, Frank, that’s most helpful. I’ll see what we can come up with.