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You'll recall that a few years back, we--or our predecessors--advised the Secretary of State to accept the principal recommendations of the Sablon Committee and that meant, inter alia, approval of the Lawson Park project; and a good deal of money for it in the annual estimates ever since. Lawson Park's always had its enemies, as you know, and someone may well try to argue that these wasters of public money have been negligent in letting the dogs escape. That could be embarrassing. It's bad enough the station having been sited in a national park in the first place.
~ The Under Secretary to the Assistant Secretary.

The Under Secretary (real name: Maurice) is a major antagonist in Richard Adams' 1977 novel The Plague Dogs, and its 1982 film adaptation of the same name. He is a self-serving senior civil servant at the Government Department of the Environment who works for the Secretary of State named William Harbottle and had A.R.S.E. set up in Lawson Park in the first place.

He was voiced by the late Anthony Valentine in the film.


The Under Secretary works for the Ministry of Defence and was responsible for having the A.R.S.E. set up in Lawson Park after a political battle. 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, it could embarrass the Secretary of State. They suggest getting Digby Driver to investigate and Desmond Simpson sends him.

After Driver learns about Dr. Goodner's defence 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. 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 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 Ravenglass 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 despite being surprised that they Wood was their owner and not the Research Station, 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 give them a bad reputation, 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.


(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 learning about the rumors of the plague-carrying dogs.


  • In the book, the Under Secretary didn't inform Boycott about suspending his job completely.
  • The Under Secretary is one of the many human characters in the film to remain completely off-screen.


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