Parliamentary Private Secretary

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A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is a Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom who acts as an unpaid assistant to a minister or to the Leader of the Opposition. They are selected from backbench MPs as the 'eyes and ears' of the minister in the House of Commons. [1]


PPSs are junior to Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State, a ministerial post salaried by one or more departments.

Duties and powers of a PPS

Although not paid other than their salary as an MP, [2] PPSs help the government to track backbench opinion in Parliament. They are subject to some restrictions as outlined in the Ministerial Code of the British government but are not members of the Government. [3] [1]

A PPS can sit on select committees but must avoid "associating themselves with recommendations critical of, or embarrassing to the Government", and must not make statements or ask questions on matters affecting the minister's department. [4] In particular, the PPS in the Department for Communities and Local Government may not participate in planning decisions or in the consideration of planning cases. [5] [6]

PPSs are not members of the government, and all efforts are made to avoid these positions being referred to as such. They are instead considered more simply as normal Members. However, their close confidence with ministers does impose obligations on every PPS. The guidelines surrounding the divulging of classified information by ministers to PPSs are rigid. [7]

Ministers choose their own PPSs, but they are expected to consult the Chief Whip and must seek the written approval for each candidate from the Prime Minister. [8]

Although not on the government payroll, PPSs are expected to act as part of the payroll vote, voting in line with the government on every division. [9] [10]

When on official Departmental business, a PPS receives travel and subsistence allowance paid out of government funds, as with formal members of the government. This makes the PPS the only type of unpaid advisor who receives reimbursement in the course of duty. [11]

Overseas travel for PPSs must be approved by the Prime Minister and is granted only in exceptional cases. [11]

The role in the career of MPs

The role of PPS is seen as a starting point for many MPs who aspire to become ministers themselves. [12] According to Philip W. Buck, a professor of political science at Stanford University:

Nine-tenths of the M.P.s who first won seats in the House of Commons in 1918 or thereafter, and who held some ministerial office in the years from 1918 to 1955, began their progress towards posts in a ministry or a Cabinet by serving as parliamentary secretaries or as junior ministers... Recruitment to the front bench clearly begins with these two offices. [13]

After the leaking of party details in emails associated with Desmond Swayne, PPS to David Cameron, a writer of the Thirsk and Malton Labour Party Constituency Blog commented:

A Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) is a thankless job. Despite having risen to the rank of MP, those with Governmental ambitions will need to pay their dues once more – as a bag carrier. Admittedly, PPS is a bit more than that – you are supposed to be the eyes and ears, reporting back to your boss all the gossip, what people are saying about your work in the bars and cafes of Westminster. [14]

Current Parliamentary Private Secretaries

The following is a list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries in the UK, as at October 2020. [15] The most notable are the:

The Leader of the Opposition usually appoints one Parliamentary Private Secretary as well. [16]

Parliamentary Private Secretaries
Post or ministerial teamParliamentary Private Secretary
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Minister for the Union Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP Alex Burghart MP
Trudy Harrison MP
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP Kevin Hollinrake MP
Cabinet Office ministerial team Jane Hunt MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP James Cartlidge MP
HM Treasury ministerial team Claire Coutinho MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rt Hon. Steve Barclay MP Craig Williams MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department Rt Hon. Priti Patel MP Mike Wood MP
Home Office ministerial team Andrew Lewer MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and First Secretary of State Rt Hon. Dominic Raab MP Gareth Johnson MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial team Joy Morrisey MP
Secretary of State for Defence Rt Hon. Ben Wallace MP Jack Brereton MP
Ministry of Defence ministerial team Natalie Elphicke MP
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Rt Hon. Robert Buckland QC MP Chris Clarkson MP
Ministry of Justice ministerial team Julie Marson MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP Steve Double MP
Department of Health and Social Care ministerial team Virginia Crosbie MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rt Hon. Alok Sharma MP Ben Bradley MP
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ministerial team Jo Gideon MP
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Rt Hon. Robert Jenrick MP Andrea Jenkyns MP
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ministerial team Jacob Young MP
Ending rough sleeping, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Adam Holloway MP
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Rt Hon. Oliver Dowden MP John Lamont MP
Secretary of State for International Trade, President of the Board of Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities Rt Hon. Liz Truss MP David Duguid MP
Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson MP Scott Mann MP
Department for Education ministerial team Angela Richardson MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon. George Eustice MP Caroline Ansell MP
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministerial team Fay Jones MP
Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP Robert Courts MP
Department for Transport ministerial team Laura Trott MP
Secretary of State for International Development Rt Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Flick Drummond MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rt Hon. Thérèse Coffey MP Bim Afolami MP
Secretary of State for Scotland Rt Hon. Alister Jack MP Ruth Edwards MP
Secretary of State for Wales Rt Hon. Simon Hart MP Sarah Atherton MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon. Brandon Lewis MP Sarah Dines MP
Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons Rt Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Lucy Allan MP
Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal Rt Hon. Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Chris Green MP
Attorney General Rt Hon. Suella Braverman QC MP Alberto Costa MP
Minister without Portfolio and Conservative Party Chairman Rt Hon. Amanda Milling MP Damien Moore MP
The Leader of the Opposition Rt Hon. Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP Sharon Hodgson MP [17]

Notable Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister

While giving the holder a close-up view of the workings of government at the highest levels, relatively few Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister seem to have gone on to serve at the highest level of government themselves, although Sir Alec Douglas-Home served as Prime Minister in 1963–4, while Anthony Barber was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1970 to 1974, Robert Carr, Home Secretary, 1972–4, and Christopher Soames, Peter Shore, and Gavin Williamson, the current Secretary of State for Education, all went on to be senior Cabinet ministers.

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  1. 1 2 Maer, Lucinda (4 September 2017). "Parliamentary Private Secretaries". House of Commons Library : 4.
  2. "Parliamentary Private Secretary". Explore Parliament. 2007-03-28. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26.
  3. "Ministerial Code" (PDF). December 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  4. The Ministerial Code §3.10.
  5. Ministerial Code §3.12.
  6. "Guidance on propriety issues in handling planning casework in Communities and Local Government". Communities and Local Government. 2007-03-28. Archived from the original on 2007-02-05.
  7. The Ministerial Code §3.8.
  8. The Ministerial Code §3.6.
  9. The Ministerial Code §3.9.
  10. Brazier, Rodney (2020-09-07). "Rodney Brazier: Why is Her Majesty's Government so big?". UK Constitutional Law Association. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
  11. 1 2 The Ministerial Code §3.11.
  12. "Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPSs)". bbc online. 2007-03-28.
  13. Buck, Philip W. (1963). "The Early Start toward Cabinet Office, 1918–55". The Western Political Quarterly. 16 (3): 624–632. doi:10.2307/444766. JSTOR   444766.
  14. "Monday, July 10, 2006". Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party Blog. 2007-03-28.[ dead link ]
  15. Parliamentary Private Secretaries - October 2020.
  16. "Parliamentary Private Secretary - Who are they and what do they do?". Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  17. "Keir Starmer appoints northern MP to build bridges with backbenchers". the Guardian. 2021-05-14. Retrieved 2021-05-14.