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 shadow minister. They are selected from backbench MPs as the 'eyes and ears' of the minister in the House of Commons.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Overseas travel for PPSs must be approved by the Prime Minister and is granted only in exceptional cases.
The role in the career of MPs
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.
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.
Current Parliamentary Private Secretaries
The following is a list of Parliamentary Private Secretaries in the UK, since the swearing in of the Truss ministry on 6 September 2022. The Leader of the Opposition usually has at least one Parliamentary Private Secretary as well.
Johnson ministry (2022)
Johnson ministry (2021)
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 future Secretary of State for Education, all went on to be senior Cabinet ministers.
- J. C. C. Davidson: to Bonar Law
- Alec Douglas-Home, Lord Dunglass: to Neville Chamberlain, 1937–1940
- Brendan Bracken: to Winston Churchill, 1940–1941
- Christopher Soames: to Winston Churchill, 1952–1955
- Robert Carr: to Sir Anthony Eden, 1955
- Anthony Barber: to Harold Macmillan, 1957–1959
- Peter Shore: to Harold Wilson, 1965–1966
- Timothy Kitson: to Edward Heath, 1970–1974
- Ian Gow: to Margaret Thatcher, 1979–1983
- Peter Morrison: to Margaret Thatcher, 1990
- Graham Bright: to John Major, 1990–1994
- Gavin Williamson: to David Cameron, 2013–2016
- George Hollingbery: to Theresa May, 2016–2017
- Maer, Lucinda (4 September 2017). "Parliamentary Private Secretaries". House of Commons Library: 4.
- "Parliamentary Private Secretary". Explore Parliament. 2007-03-28. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26.
- "Ministerial Code" (PDF). gov.uk. December 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
- The Ministerial Code §3.10.
- Ministerial Code §3.12.
- "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.
- The Ministerial Code §3.8.
- The Ministerial Code §3.6.
- The Ministerial Code §3.9.
- Brazier, Rodney (2020-09-07). "Rodney Brazier: Why is Her Majesty's Government so big?". UK Constitutional Law Association. Retrieved 2020-09-16.
- The Ministerial Code §3.11.
- "Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPSs)". bbc online. 2007-03-28.
- 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.
- "Monday, July 10, 2006". Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party Blog. 2007-03-28.[dead link]
- "Parliamentary Private Secretary - Who are they and what do they do?". politics.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
- "Parliamentary Private Secretaries - April 2022" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. April 2022. Retrieved 28 April 2022.
- "Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid resign as Boris Johnson apologises for Chris Pincher 'mistake' – UK politics live". the Guardian. 2022-07-05. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
- "Crisis for Boris Johnson as Sunak and Javid lead wave of resignations from government". Sky News. Retrieved 2022-07-05.
- "Boris Johnson: Virginia Crosbie quits and calls for PM to resign". BBC News. 2022-07-06. Retrieved 2022-07-06.
- "Keir Starmer appoints northern MP to build bridges with backbenchers". the Guardian. 2021-05-14. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
- 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