Principal Private Secretary

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Not to be confused with Parliamentary Private Secretary.

In the British Civil Service and Australian Public Service the Principal Private Secretary is the civil servant who runs a cabinet minister's private office. The role can be a political appointment or a civil service position.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

A classic explanation is provided in the British sitcom Yes Minister.

Sir Humphrey (the Permanent Secretary) briefs Hacker (the Minister) on the Department's workings:

Hacker: Who else is in this department?
Sir Humphrey: Well briefly, sir, I am the Permanent Under-Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary. I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretaries are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary.
Hacker: Can they all type?
Sir Humphrey: None of us can type. Mrs MacKay types: she's the secretary.
Hacker: Pity, we could have opened an agency.
Sir Humphrey: Very droll, Minister.
Hacker: I suppose they all say that, do they?
Sir Humphrey: Certainly not Minister. Not quite all..."

(From the episode "Open Government", transmitted 25 February 1980)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee, John Michael; George William Jones; June Burnham (1998). At the centre of Whitehall: advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978-0-312-17730-0.