First Secretary of State

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First Secretary of State
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Office not in use

since 13 July 2016
Style The Right Honourable
Nominator Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Appointer Elizabeth II
Term length No fixed term
Inaugural holder Rab Butler
Formation 13 July 1962
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First Secretary of State is an honorific title occasionally used within the Government of the United Kingdom. The title, which implies seniority over all other Secretaries of State,[1] has no specific powers or authority attached to it beyond that of any other Secretary of State.

The title is not always in use, and there have been lengthy periods between successive holders of the title.

Relationship with Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

The post of Deputy Prime Minister had been created in 1942 for Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party in Winston Churchill's wartime coalition ministry. The post indicated that the holder ranked second in government, after the Prime Minister, but did not confer cabinet rank and did not pay a salary. For this reason, the Deputy Prime Minister concurrently held other offices, entitling him to a place in cabinet.

The title First Secretary of State indicated the holder's rank as a Secretary of State, with a place in cabinet. The title was created in 1962 for Deputy Prime Minister R. A. Butler, granting him a place in cabinet despite not holding a specific cabinet portfolio. Michael Heseltine and John Prescott were also relieved of their cabinet portfolios when serving as Deputy Prime Minister, and were therefore additionally appointed First Secretary of State. In 1964, Prime Minister Harold Wilson established the alternative usage, appointing a First Secretary of State among the cabinet without appointing a Deputy Prime Minister.

The two titles have only existed concurrently with different holders in one government: in David Cameron's coalition ministry of 2010–15, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, and William Hague was appointed First Secretary of State.

Most recent holder[edit]

The most recent First Secretary of State was George Osborne, who first received the title from Prime Minister David Cameron in addition to his reappointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer[2] immediately following the 2015 General Election and held it until he left cabinet in 2016.

List of First Secretaries of State[edit]

Colour key
(for political parties)
Name Portrait Concurrent office(s) Term of office Political party
(Party position)
Prime Minister
Rab Butler[3] Rab Butler.png Deputy Prime Minister 13 July 1962 – 18 October 1963 Conservative Harold Macmillan
Office not in use 1963–1964 Alec Douglas-Home
George Brown George Brown, 1967.jpg Economic Secretary 16 October 1964 – 11 August 1966 Labour
(Deputy Leader)
Harold Wilson
Michael Stewart Michael Stewart.jpg Economic Secretary (until August 1967)
Foreign Secretary (from March 1968)
11 August 1966 – 6 April 1968 Labour
Barbara Castle Mme Barbara Castle, Ministre britannique du développement outre-mer.jpg Employment and Productivity Secretary 6 April 1968 – 19 June 1970 Labour
Office not in use 1970–1995 Edward Heath
Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Michael Heseltine Lord Heseltine, Deputy Prime Minister, UK (1995-97) (10559130986).jpg Deputy Prime Minister 20 July 1995 – 2 May 1997 Conservative
Office not in use 1997–2001 Tony Blair
John Prescott John Prescott on his last day as Deputy Prime Minister, June 2007.jpg Deputy Prime Minister (from May 1997) 8 June 2001 – 27 June 2007 Labour
(Deputy Leader)
Office not in use 2007–2009 Gordon Brown
Peter Mandelson, Baron Mandelson Peter Mandelson at Politics of Climate Change 3.jpg Business Secretary
Lord President of the Council
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010 Labour
William Hague William Hague Foreign Secretary (2010).jpg Foreign Secretary (until July 2014)
Leader of the House of Commons (from July 2014)
12 May 2010 – 8 May 2015 Conservative David Cameron
George Osborne George osborne hi.jpg Chancellor of the Exchequer 8 May 2015 – 13 July 2016 Conservative David Cameron
Office not in use 13 July 2016 – present Theresa May

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicholas Watt (8 May 2015). "George Osborne made first secretary of state in cabinet reshuffle". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "First Secretary of State". 
  3. ^ Howard, Anthony (February 7, 2013). "RAB: The Life of R.A. Butler". A&C Black.