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I hope that my right honorable friend will be able to deal with this rather serious matter promptly, and not make it a political issue. We have learned, not because the research station told us of their own accord, but because the media reported it, and they could not deny it that these dogs may have been infected, during their escape with bubonic plague. So, this is how we find out that scientists are studying bubonic plague at Lawson park. We do not know why they're doing this, but since the disease has not been a serious public health risk for many years, one must assume that the work is connected in some way with defense. Surely, such work, if necessary at all, should not be carried out in the middle of a national park. I come finally, to the matter of the distressing tragedy, which occurred two days ago. It would be pointless for me to try to allot blame for a thing of this kind. The point is, and I address this to my right honorable friend, the Secretary of State of Defense, what is going to be done? I am glad. I am glad my right honorable and gallant colleague is not attempting to ascribe any kind of blame to the Ministry of Defense. And indeed the member for Keswic is right, in demanding quick and decisive action. Accordingly, the Ministry has taken the following steps. Two companies or the third battalion of the parachute regiment are at this moment, on their way to the Lake District. Tomorrow they will begin an intensive search of the most likely areas, and they will continue until the dogs are found, and destroyed.
~ The Under Secretary's speech.

The Under Secretary (real name: Maurice) is the secondary antagonist of Richard Adams' 1977 novel The Plague Dogs, and a minor antagonist in its 1982 film adaptation of the same name. He is a government bureaucrat who works for the Secretary of State named William Harbottle and wants to destroy Rowf and Snitter, so the media would not discredit the station and make them an an embarrassment.

He was voiced by the late Philip Locke, the late Brian Spink, the late Tony Church, the late Anthony Valentine, and the late William Lucas in the film.

History

The Under Secretary works for the Ministry of Defense and was responsible for having the A.R.S.E. set up in Lawson Park. He plans to build a prison at the Lake District and is associated with the Secretary of State named William Harbottle, known by his civil servants as "Hot Bottle Bill". When Tyson fails to shut Rowf's door properly, the dogs escape the lab and roam the countryside with the help of the Tod to help them survive in the wild. When the local farmers set out to kill the dogs, they fail to catch them and they realize that they're from the Research Station. They figured that the government department being responsible for sheep killing dogs would make them a real embarrassment and they call the facility, but Stephen Powell refuses to give a straight answer and Dr. Boycott decides to cover their tracks.

The civil servants hear about the incident of David Ephraim's death after Snitter accidentally killed him and they explain that if the Research Station gets discredited, they could embarrasss the Secretary of State. They suggest getting Digby Driver to investigate and Desmond Simpson sends him.

After Driver learns about Dr. Goodner's defense work, he makes a note about it. The civil servants see it and report it to the Under Secretary the next day. The Under Secretary thinks it's negligible and decides to advise the Parliamentary Secretary to prepare his chariot. Michael the Assistant Secretary discusses about the situation about the dogs and the Under Secretary explains the problems about the Research Station set up in Lawson Park.

The next day, the Assistant Secretary informs the Under Secretary for Boycott's response about the dogs after he claims that it wasn't confirmed that they weren't owned by him. The Under Secretary then receives a call from Edward and then informs the Assistant Secretary to have him write a letter to the Parliamentary Secretary.

Digby Driver posts a news article about the dogs carrying bubonic plague and confirms that they have escaped from the Research Station after blackmailing Dr. Goodner, much to everyone's shock. The Assistant Secretary claims that they can't deny that the two dogs may have gotten close to the plague and informs the Under Secretary that Boycott says that it's unlikely that dogs can't contract the plague.

3 days later, the Under Secretary arranges a meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary, Basil Forbes. The Under Secretary mentions the dogs to the Forbes and tells him that the dogs hadn't contracted the plague. They suggest informing the public about the truth and that the newspapers will have to go away. The Under Secretary demonstrates his plan of setting up a liaison drill to Forbes and they decide to inform the Secretary of State. The Under Secretary informs the Assistant Secretary that they'll be safely advising the ministers about the dogs not being infected.

After writing a letter to the ministers, the Under Secretary realizes that the Assistant Secretary must have departed from Lawson Park and that they must do this in their own hands.

At the House of Commons, Hot Bottle Bill and his civil servants announce a speech about handling the situation with Mr. Bugwash. Harbottle states that the 3rd Battalion are sent to kill the dogs and hopes it would be quickly. Driver is later informed by Skillicorn that Harbottle sent the army to hunt the dogs and he heads over there.

When the dogs manage to reach the shores of Ravengladd and swim out to sea to escape the military, the Under Secretary calls Dr. Boycott and tells him about suspending work, to which he reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Digby Driver confronts Ann Moss for selling Snitter to the Research Station and heads out to rescue the dogs with Alan Wood. When the two dogs are rescued by two naturalists named Peter Scott and Ronald Lockley, they are reunited with Alan Wood. Hot Bottle Bill and the Under Secretary arrive at the Drigg Nature reserve and order Major Awdry to have the dogs shot. Major Awdry tells them that Wood is the lawful owner, but they insist on shooting the dogs. Major Rose confronts them and tells them that it's illegal to use guns near a nature reserve and they have no right to be there. Harbottle begins to lose his patience, but Digby Driver confronts them and threatens to sue them, forcing Harbottle to leave. Harbottle tells the Under Secretary to deal with the matter, but Rowf chases him off and they flee in their car as Driver takes photos of them.

Quotes

If we send someone up there now, we'll have a national exclusive. Oh, I'm sure we can do a big number on it, "exclusive from our reporter in Cumberland", etc. All that, and then the whole thing folds in the middle. We could look very foolish. (Assistant Secretary: Suppose a farmer shoots the dog next week. That'll be the end of it.) That's not the point! In the first place, half the conservation groups in the country were opposed to the lab being set up in a national park. Secondly, no one has the teeniest idea what on earth it is that they're doing there anyway! Do any of you? No. Now there's talk of sheep killing, and a member of the local gentry gets himself shot by the dog! (Assistant Secretary: Ah, but was there a dog involved in the shooting at all?) There were muddy paw marks on him, and dog hair. I've got a feeling about this one. Get someone up there right away. Today, in fact!
~ The Under Secretary arguing over the dogs killing Mr. Ephraim and hiring Digby Driver to catch the dogs.
(Assistant Secretary: Awkward. If the media are intent on making a meal of this plague business, it could be extremely awkward.) I agree. But tell me, could the dogs in fact have had any contact? (Assistant Secretary: Almost certainly not. Boycott says it's out of the question.) But, uh... fleas, cracks, doors. (Assistant Secretary: Precisely. How can the Secretary of State stand up in the house and swear for certain that not a single flea escaped and popped on one of the dogs?)
~ The Under Secretary wondering if Rowf and Snitter really contracted the plague.

Trivia

  • In the book, the Under Secretary wasn't involved in sending Digby Driver.

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