Minister: Sir Humphrey. Where have you been for the last few weeks?
Sir Humphrey: I’ve been negotiating with Whitehall on your behalf, Minister.
Minister: Excellent, Sir Humphrey. So we’re ready to announce the details of the Elco?
Sir Humphrey: Not exactly, Minister, no. There are a few small problems remaining.
Minister: Look, Sir Humphrey, I’ve promised this to people. I promised it to the electors, and I promised it to my party. I promised to announce it in the spring, and it’s now summer. I’m coming under increasing pressure for an early announcement. Your last little suggestion of announcing the extension of existing powers to 57 more bodies backfired rather badly. People noticed that it was the same announcement made by my predecessor – and that we hadn’t actually done anything in the last twelve months.
Bernard: But Minister, it’s only the second time that we’d announced that change. We normally announce things at least three times before actually doing anything.
Sir Humphrey: Thank you Bernard. Minister, we just cannot get my colleagues, I mean the other Ministers, to agree to your proposals.
Minister: Why not? What’s the problem?
Sir Humphrey: Well, it’s the question of extending the law into the private sector, Minister. If you could just remove that little requirement, we’d be able to move ahead with an announcement almost immediately. Otherwise it is likely to take many more months of discussion.
Minister: But then it would be meaningless!
Sir Humphrey: Of course not, Minister. The Assembly would then have the right to make laws on the matter any time it wished - it would just be a matter of staying within current constraints, for the time being.
Minister: So we could pass any laws we liked, as long as they didn’t go further than the current one?
Sir Humphrey: Precisely, Minister. But it would enable you to act now, given the impending changes.
Minister: Impending changes? What impending changes?
Sir Humphrey: There is talk, Minister, of some changes in ministerial responsibilities.
Minister: You mean a re-shuffle? I hadn’t heard that.
Sir Humphrey: Not necessarily a re-shuffle, Minister. Just a few minor changes. But an early announcement would be advisable.
Minister: What’s behind this talk?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, I don’t know exactly; there has been some mention of an event at the Qumrani embassy, that's all that I've heard. But an early announcement, with a more restricted scope, would also allow me to devote my time to other pressing matters.
Minister: What other ‘pressing matters’?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, I hadn’t mentioned this before, but I’ve been thinking that it would be a good idea to organise a fact-finding mission for you. To let you see the way in which other countries promote their lesser-used languages.
Minister: What would that entail, exactly?
Sir Humphrey: Well, Minister, I thought perhaps Canada to study the experience of using French; Catalonia, the Basque country, maybe Sardinia, and Switzerland to look at the use of Romansch. But I really couldn’t organise such a trip and continue negotiating the Elco at the same time.
Minister: And Brussels, maybe? I like Brussels. And they have some language issues.
Sir Humphrey: I’m sure that we could fit that in, Minister.
Minister: I see. And if I agreed to a more restricted scope for the Elco at this stage, we could always come back to it in the future?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly, Minister.
Bernard: Well, your successor, in any event.
Minister: And use the experience of the fact-finding trip as additional evidence?
Bernard and Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.