Doing the Honours

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"Doing the Honours"
Episode no. Series 2
Episode 2
Written by Antony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Peter Whitmore
Original air date 2 March 1981
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Compassionate Society"
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List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"Doing the Honours" is the ninth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister and was first broadcast 2 March 1981. In this episode, the final ' Yes Minister ' is uttered by Sir Humphrey Appleby, though he actually says "Yes, Doctor... er, Minister".

Plot[edit]

Jim Hacker is holding a meeting with his junior civil servants regarding the scope for economies in certain departments. Not one of them is able to suggest a single area of expenditure where this can happen. However, the Minister points to one minor victory: universities will be forced to make overseas students pay for their own tuition — with no exceptions. After the meeting, Bernard (Hacker's Principal Private Secretary) approaches the Minister to ask if he has approved the departmental recommendations for the latest honours list. Bernard remarks that while in theory ministers can withhold civil service honours, in practice it is rarely the case. Hacker wonders how he can make government officials want economies in the same way as they desire their knighthoods, etc. Bernard then hesitantly suggests to the Minister that he might like to consider denying honours to those civil servants who haven't cut their budgets by 5%. Hacker is immediately enthusiastic.

Sir Humphrey Appleby has been enjoying a dinner at Baillie, his old college, and is chatting with the Master and the Bursar. They are concerned at the college's poor financial situation, which won't be helped by Hacker's policy of making overseas students pay for their tuition. Baillie is particularly affected as it has a large influx of such students. Sir Humphrey suggests that they take more from the United Kingdom, but the economics dictate otherwise. The Master and Bursar ask Sir Humphrey to persuade his minister to designate Baillie as an exception, and they agree to invite Hacker to a High Table dinner at the college.

The next morning, Hacker meets with Sir Humphrey and tells him of his plan to withhold honours. The Permanent Secretary is dumbstruck. Hacker points out that anyone else would have to earn an honour, whereas in the civil service, such things "come up with the rations". Sir Humphrey struggles to put his case, calling the idea "a Bennite solution" and demanding to know where it came from. Bernard is immediately sheepish, but Hacker does not betray him. Sir Humphrey argues that the honours system should be given a "fair trial", but the Minister reminds him that the Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by Edward III. Hacker brooks no argument and insists that his scheme is enacted straightaway. Sir Humphrey then informs the Minister of his dinner at Baillie College and the representations made to him regarding overseas students. However, he lets slip that he was educated at Baillie himself, which only adds to Hacker's scepticism.

The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Arnold Robinson, invites Sir Humphrey over to his office. He is equally concerned over Hacker's plan to link honours to economies, and observes that, if implemented, the "contagion would spread" to all departments. Sir Humphrey is nervous: by his own admission, he can find no effective arguments against the proposal. Nevertheless, Sir Arnold seeks an assurance that it won't be put into practice — otherwise it could cause Sir Humphrey’s "soundness" to be questioned. Then Sir Arnold mentions a telephone conversation he has had with the Master of Baillie College. Since the Cabinet Secretary himself is a Baillie man, he too promised that the college would continue to receive government grants for all its students. He now adds this to Sir Humphrey's burden, but is reassured that Hacker has been invited to a benefactor's dinner.

The next evening, Hacker travels to the dinner in his ministerial car. Bernard is with him and tells him of Sir Humphrey's dressing-down from Sir Arnold. They also discuss the various honours that are given, and Bernard remarks that despite the Cabinet Secretary's seniority, he doesn't yet have all the honours for which he could be eligible.

After the meal, the Master, the Bursar and Sir Humphrey chat with a drunken Hacker about Baillie's history. They tell him that most of its facilities are named after its benefactors, but drop the hint that its heritage may be coming to an abrupt end. Changing the subject, Sir Humphrey enquires about the college's latest Honorary Doctorate of Law and asks about the intended recipient. It seems that they would like to bestow the honour on the Minister himself…

In the morning, Hacker is back at the DAA and nursing a heavy hangover before another expenditure survey meeting. Sir Humphrey formally informs him about the Honorary Doctorate and Hacker is surprised and delighted. However, the mandarin reminds the Minister that it would be a question of accepting an honour without actually having done anything to deserve it — the same argument put forward by Hacker for holding back civil service honours. The Minister now has a change of heart regarding Baillie College and Sir Humphrey tells him that it can be redesignated as a Commonwealth Education Centre, which would exempt it from charging overseas students. Hacker is concerned about finding the money for it, and Sir Humphrey assures him that he could achieve cuts in his department, so long as the plan for withholding honours is shelved. The meeting takes place and every participant is suddenly able to find scope for economies, coincidentally each of them for the requisite 5%. Satisfied, Hacker hands the honours list to Sir Humphrey, and asks if everything is in order. "Yes, Doctor... er, Minister" comes the reply.

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
Frank Middlemass Master, Baillie College
John Nettleton Sir Arnold Robinson
William Fox Bursar, Baillie College
John Pennington Peter
Margo Johns Civil Servant
Anne Maxwell Civil Servant

External links[edit]

"Doing the Honours" at the Internet Movie Database