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The Economy Drive

"The Economy Drive" is the third episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister and was first broadcast 10 March 1980. This episode, unlike many others, does not end with the phrase, "Yes Minister."

"The Economy Drive"
Yes Minister episode
Episode no. Series 1
Episode 3
Written by Antony Jay
Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Sydney Lotterby
Original air date 10 March 1980
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Official Visit"
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"Big Brother"
List of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister episodes


A despondent Jim Hacker listens with Bernard as his political advisor, Frank Weisel, reads a damning press report detailing a series of government inefficiencies. When Sir Humphrey Appleby arrives, Hacker immediately demands a slimming down of his department. Sir Humphrey argues that its staff is "small", numbering some 23,000. When Hacker suggests a time and motion study, his Permanent Secretary admits that they had undergone such an exercise the previous year — resulting in the recruitment of 500 extra staff. Sir Humphrey suggests that closing Hacker's "bureaucratic watchdog" office would represent a start, but the Minister won't entertain the idea, as it is the one thing he's been able to achieve so far. Hacker insists that Sir Humphrey provides a complete inventory of all the department's staff and buildings, and the civil servant leaves "fully seized" of his Minister's aims. However, Weisel informs Hacker that the north-west Regional Controller has achieved cuts of £32 million in his region — and that the civil service has suppressed it, in case anyone else is forced to make similar savings. Hacker is astonished and instructs Weisel to "ferret around".

Later, Sir Humphrey speaks with Bernard and concedes that he knew about the cutbacks, but is annoyed that the information had got out. When Bernard questions the need for such staffing requirements, Sir Humphrey elucidates him: a large department is the only way that success can be measured within the civil service. Therefore, it is the duty of every Permanent Secretary to convince his Minister to fight for the department's budget. When Bernard argues that the Minister is an MP who is democratically elected, Sir Humphrey points out that MPs have no training whatsoever, and it is up to the civil service to do the job for them. He also enquires about Weisel's investigative activities, and decides to furnish him with a government car in order to keep tabs on him.

Sir Humphrey meets with his colleague Sir Frederick Stewart, who advises that Hacker should be forced to make economies that affect him personally; Sir Humphrey sees the benefits of such a plan.

Hacker sits down with Sir Humphrey, Bernard, and Frank Weisel to thrash out the exact nature of the proposed savings. However, Sir Humphrey knows of Weisel's previous whereabouts and is able — with such reasons as listed building status, classified information, and potential nuclear holocaust — to rebut all the Minister's charges regarding government buildings. Concerning staffing levels, Sir Humphrey argues that it would not bode well for the government if it announced a series of redundancies in depressed marginal constituencies. He then successfully convinces Hacker of the publicity benefits of setting an example to others.

At home that night, after missing his train because he walked to the station, Hacker informs his wife, Annie, of his personal economy drive. She can't quite believe that after 20 years of struggling for his position, he is no better off than he was as a back bencher.

Some days later, Hacker's office has been transformed: much of the furniture has now gone and Bernard is struggling to cope with just one assistant. His diary meeting with Hacker is interrupted by the cleaning lady, who no longer has a night shift. However, the Minister is impressed by his coverage in the tabloids. Hacker is then due to have a meeting about the cutbacks with a senior civil servant, who is unable to make the appointment and whose place is taken — unbeknownst to Hacker — by Ron Watson, a union leader. He only reveals his identity after Hacker has delivered a vitriolic assessment of the unions and their members. Watson is furious and later goes to the press, which results in a transport strike.

That evening, the Hackers' car breaks down en route to a reception at the French embassy. Annie leaves in disgust and Hacker is forced to fulfill the engagement alone. He leaves the embassy inebriated (or "tired and emotional," as at least two of the papers later describe him), and is photographed by a journalist while on the ground, trying to fish his car keys out of a sewer grate.

The next day, Sir Humphrey convinces Hacker to issue a press release announcing 800 job cuts: 400 from his "bureaucratic watchdog" office and an additional 400 who were needed to examine the scope for savings in the first place. In addition, Sir Humphrey gives Hacker a brand new proposal for slimming down the civil service: a proposal to reduce the number of tea ladies.

Episode castEdit

Actor Role
Paul Eddington Jim Hacker
Nigel Hawthorne Sir Humphrey Appleby
Derek Fowlds Bernard Woolley
John Savident Sir Frederick Stewart
Diana Hoddinott Annie Hacker
Neil Fitzwiliam Frank Weisel
Milton Johns Ron Watson
Pat Keen Nelly
Patricia Shakesby Mandy
William Lawford French Ambassador
Norman Tipton Photographer
Frank Tregear Reporter

External linksEdit