The Quality of Life (Yes Minister)

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"The Quality of Life"
Yes Minister episode
Episode no.Series 2
Episode 6
Written byAntony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced byPeter Whitmore
Original air date30 March 1981
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Devil You Know"
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"A Question of Loyalty"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes

"The Quality of Life" is the thirteenth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister and was first broadcast 30 March 1981.


Sir Humphrey Appleby is waiting to see Jim Hacker and is joined by his old friend Sir Desmond Glazebrook, the Chairman of Bartlett's Bank, who also wishes to speak with the Minister. He wants his approval for six floors to be added to the bank's international headquarters, making 44 storeys in total. However, Hacker has just made a speech attacking skyscraper office blocks, recommending a maximum height of eight storeys each. Sir Humphrey reassures Sir Desmond that there are ways and means of gaining the Minister's permission, but he will have to be patient. The banker lets slip that there is a place for Sir Humphrey on the bank's Board when he retires, but the Permanent Secretary is quick to quieten him. They are joined by Sir Desmond's architect as they continue to wait.

Meanwhile, Hacker is in his office discussing his newspaper coverage with his press officer, Bill Pritchard. While the broadsheets have reported his speech concerning high buildings, there is nothing in the tabloids and Hacker asks Bill's advice. Apparently, animals and small children are ideal subjects for ministerial photo opportunities, and the Minister's visit to a city farm that afternoon should provide some good publicity. As Bill leaves, Bernard reminds the Minister that Sir Humphrey is waiting to see him and shows him in. Sir Humphrey puts the case for Sir Desmond's building proposal, but Hacker is adamant to take a stand on the matter and asks to see Sir Desmond, who enters with his architect. The pair put the case for the extra six storeys to no avail, and Sir Humphrey is on hand to back up his Minister with several cogent arguments against the proposal, including the fact that the bank owns another piece of land just 400 yards (370 m) away. Hacker invites Sir Desmond to make a formal application for planning permission, but is certain of the likely outcome. Sir Desmond leaves and Hacker needs to make an urgent exit himself, but just before he does so, Sir Humphrey thrusts a document upon the Minister that requires his signature immediately. He explains that it is an administrative order that allows government to temporarily use unused local authority land until it is developed. After Hacker has signed it and left, Bernard questions Sir Humphrey on its urgency. His Permanent Secretary points out that it was not urgent, but "important". It was therefore necessary to ask the Minister to sign it when he was in a hurry.

Hacker arrives at the city farm — but then has to do so again for the benefit of the BBC TV cameramen, who missed it the first time. He is introduced to Mrs Phillips, the farm's warden, who shows him around. The Minister is invited to give a speech, and as he embarks upon it, he suddenly realises that he is reading out the one he gave the previous day regarding high-rise buildings. He eventually locates the right one, in which he pledges his support to the city farm movement. Afterwards, Mrs Phillips informs Hacker that the farm's lease is due to run out and she seeks his assurance that it will be renewed. He can't guarantee it, but offers to do what he can. Then Sue Lawley arrives to conduct an interview for Nationwide. However, Mrs Phillips tells her that the Minister is definitely going to ensure the farm's continuation. When Lawley asks Hacker to confirm this, he is unable to do so unequivocally.

The next day, Sir Humphrey meets for lunch with Sir Frank Gordon, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. Sir Frank has been looking for land on which to construct a car park for Inland Revenue inspectors and Sir Humphrey informs him that a suitable location is about to become vacant. The document that Hacker signed gives him permission to use the site — which is currently occupied by the city farm that the Minister visited.

Then Sir Humphrey seeks out Sir Desmond Glazebrook. The civil servant is confident that he can get his friend's planning application approved.

Back in Hacker's office, Bill Pritchard shows Hacker the extensive press coverage of the city farm visit, and the Minister is very impressed. However, he then hears from Mrs Phillips that the farm is indeed being forced to close so that a car park can be built on the land. Bernard explains to Hacker that the Minister authorised it himself by signing Sir Humphrey's order the previous day. With Mrs Phillips waiting impatiently in the outer office, Hacker demands to see his Permanent Secretary. Sir Humphrey states that it was a Treasury decision, and therefore outside of his department's jurisdiction. Furthermore, the order is irrevocable. Mrs Phillips storms in and insists that Hacker keep his word. The Minister promises that he will do all he can, but is unconvincing. She promises him in return that her husband, who is a deputy editor by profession, will ensure that he is "roasted alive" by the press. She walks out, to be replaced moments later by Sir Desmond Glazebrook, who has had an idea. He now proposes that if Hacker will let him have an additional nine storeys on his tower block, instead of the original six, he will allow the bank's nearby land to be used by the city farm, which he suggests could be renamed "The James Hacker Cuddly Animal Sanctuary".

Episode cast[edit]

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
Richard Vernon Sir Desmond Glazebrook
Peter Cellier Sir Frank Gordon
Antony Carrick Bill Pritchard
Zulema Dene Mrs Phillips
Rex Robinson Crawford
Roger Martin BBC Producer
Sue Lawley Herself

External links[edit]

"The Quality of Life" on IMDb