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 April 2022.[15] The Leader of the Opposition usually has at least one Parliamentary Private Secretary as well.[16]

Parliamentary Private Secretaries
Office or ministerial team Incumbent Parliamentary Private Secretary
Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Union and Minister for the Civil Service[See also 1] Boris Johnson James Duddridge
Joy Morrissey
Lia Nici
Ministry of Justice
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab Mike Wood
Julie Marson
Ministerial team James Daly
HM Treasury
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak Craig Williams
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke Rob Butler
Ministerial team Claire Coutinho
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss John Lamont
Ministerial team Laura Farris
Dean Russell
Home Office
Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel Paul Holmes (resigned May 2022)
Home Office ministerial team Gagan Mohindra
Ministry of Defence
Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace Suzanne Webb
Ministerial team Alexander Stafford
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations Michael Gove Jacob Young
Ministerial team Duncan Baker
Danny Kruger
Department for Health and Social Care
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid Saqib Bhatti
Ministerial team Gareth Davies
James Davies
Cabinet Office
Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay Jane Hunt
Ministerial team[See also 2] Ian Levy
COP26 President and Minister of State Alok Sharma Katherine Fletcher
Minister without Portfolio (Co-Chair of the Conservative Party) Oliver Dowden James Wild
Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg Gareth Bacon
Minister without Portfolio and Minister of State Nigel Adams Brendan Clarke-Smith
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng Mark Fletcher
Ministerial team Felicity Buchan
Department for International Trade
Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan Jack Brereton
Ministerial team Peter Gibson
Department for Work and Pensions
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey Flick Drummond
Ministerial team Andy Carter
Department for Education
Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi Sara Britcliffe
Ministerial team David Johnston
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice Selaine Saxby
Ministerial team Mark Jenkinson
James Sunderland
Department for Transport
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps Laura Trott
Ministerial team Nicola Richards
Northern Ireland Office
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis Jonathan Gullis
Ministerial team Mark Logan
Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland
Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack Ruth Edwards
Office of the Secretary of State for Wales
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart Virginia Crosbie
Office of the Leader of the House of Lords
Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Chris Clarkson
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries Paul Bristow
Ministerial team Simon Baynes
Richard Holden
Office of the Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council Mark Spencer Fay Jones
Attorney General's Office
Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland Suella Braverman Alberto Costa

Notable Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister

Main article: Parliamentary Private Secretary 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 future 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). gov.uk. 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 - April 2022" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. April 2022. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
  16. ^ "Parliamentary Private Secretary - Who are they and what do they do?". politics.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2022.