Parliamentary Private Secretary


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 shadow minister. 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 team Incumbent Parliamentary Private Secretary
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Union, Minister for the Civil Service Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP Andrew Griffith MP
Sarah Dines MP
Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon. Dominic Raab MP Mike Wood MP
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Rt Hon. Dominic Raab MP Julie Marson MP
Ministry of Justice ministerial team Joy Morrissey MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP Claire Coutinho MP
HM Treasury ministerial team Craig Williams MP
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs; Minister for Women and Equalities Rt Hon. Liz Truss MP Bim Afolami FRSA MP
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office ministerial team Sarah Atherton MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department Rt Hon. Priti Patel MP Paul Holmes MP
Home Office ministerial team Gagan Mohindra MP
Secretary of State for Defence Rt Hon. Ben Wallace MP Suzanne Webb MP
Ministry of Defence ministerial team James Sunderland MP
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; Minister for Intergovernmental Relations Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP Angela Richardson MP
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities ministerial team Jacob Young MP
Danny Kruger MBE MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP Saqib Bhatti MBE MP
Department of Health and Social Care ministerial team Natalie Elphicke OBE MP
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rt Hon. Stephen Barclay MP Jane Hunt MP
Cabinet Office ministerial team Ian Levy MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Rt Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng MP Mark Fletcher MP
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ministerial team Felicity Buchan MP
COP26 President Rt Hon. Alok Sharma MP Katherine Fletcher MP
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade Rt Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Jack Brereton MP
Department for International Trade ministerial team Peter Gibson MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rt Hon. Thérèse Coffey Flick Drummond MP
Department for Work and Pensions ministerial team Gareth Bacon MP
Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon. Nadhim Zahawi MP Sara Britcliffe MP
Department for Education ministerial team David Johnston OBE MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon. George Eustice MP Fay Jones MP
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministerial team Selaine Saxby MP
Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP Laura Trott MBE MP
Department for Transport ministerial team Nicola Richards MP
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon. Brandon Lewis CBE MP Jonathan Gullis MP
Secretary of State for Scotland Rt Hon. Alister Jack DL MP Ruth Edwards MP
Secretary of State for Wales Rt Hon. Simon Hart MP Virginia Crosbie MP
Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Privy Seal Rt Hon. Baroness Evans of Bowes Park MBE PC Chris Clarkson MP
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Rt Hon. Nadine Dorries MP John Lamont MP
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ministerial team Lia Nici MP
Minister without Portfolio (Chairman of the Conservative Party) Rt Hon. Oliver Dowden CBE MP James Wild MP
Lord President of the Council, Leader of the House of Commons Rt Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Lucy Allan MP
Attorney General Rt Hon. Suella Braverman QC MP Alberto Costa MP
Leader of the Opposition Rt Hon. Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP Sharon Hodgson MP

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.

See also


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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.

External links

  • BBC: A-Z of Politics
  • TheyWorkForYou: List of MPs and the posts that they hold
  • Ministerial code related to PPSs
  • Parliamentary private secretaries, Institute for Government explainer