02 March 2010

The administration of policy and the policy of administration

I still think think after many years, this scene from Yes Minister is still funny. Whether there is still an element of truth in this in today's civil service is up to you to perceive.

Betty Oldham: "Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?"

Sir Humphrey: "Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy."

Betty Oldham: "Well, that is a load of meaningless drivel. Isn't it?"

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