First Secretary of State

First Secretary of State is an honorary title occasionally used in the Government of the United Kingdom. It implies seniority over all other Secretaries of State in terms of Cabinet rank,[2] but has no specific powers or authority attached to it beyond that of any other Secretary of State. When no Deputy Prime Minister is in office, the post is de facto second in Government. If there is no First Secretary of State, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is typically de facto second in Government, although under Theresa May, David Lidington as Minister for the Cabinet Office held a higher Cabinet rank than Chancellor Philip Hammond.

United Kingdom First Secretary of State
Dominic Raab

since 24 July 2019
Government of the United Kingdom
Office of the Prime Minister
Cabinet Office
StyleThe Right Honourable
First Secretary of State
Member of
Reports toThe Prime Minister
ResidenceNone, may use Grace and favour residences
SeatWestminster, London
NominatorThe Prime Minister
AppointerThe British Monarch
on the advice of the Prime Minister
Term lengthNo fixed term
Inaugural holderRab Butler
Formation13 July 1962
Salary£150,558 (annual, including £79,468 MP's salary)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website
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The title is not always in use, so there have sometimes been extended gaps between successive holders of the title. It was unused the longest in the 25 years between 1970 and 1995. After Damian Green resigned over sexual harassment allegations on 20 December 2017, no Secretary of State was appointed to fill the post until Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Dominic Raab on 24 July 2019 when he became Prime Minister.[3][4][5]


The role has had varying responsibilities over time. The most recent responsibilities are:[6]

Relationship with Deputy Prime Minister

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, while former Conservative leader William Hague was appointed First Secretary of State.

List of First Secretaries of State

First Secretary of State
Portrait Name
Term of office Other ministerial offices Party Ministry Ref.
R. A. Butler[7]
MP for Saffron Walden
13 July
18 October
Conservative Macmillan II [8]
Title not in use 1963–1964
George Brown
MP for Belper
16 October
11 August
Labour Wilson
(I & II)
Michael Stewart
MP for Fulham
11 August
6 April
Labour [8]
Barbara Castle
MP for Blackburn
6 April
19 June
Labour [8]
Title not in use 1970–1995
Michael Heseltine
MP for Henley
(born 1933)
20 July
2 May
Conservative Major II [9]
Title not in use 1997–2001
John Prescott
MP for Kingston upon Hull East
(born 1938)
8 June
27 June
Labour Blair
(II & III)
Title not in use 2007–2009
Peter Mandelson
The Lord Mandelson

(born 1953)
5 June
11 May
Labour Brown
William Hague
MP for Richmond (Yorks)
(born 1961)
12 May
8 May
Conservative Cameron–Clegg
George Osborne
MP for Tatton
(born 1971)
8 May
13 July
Conservative Cameron II [12]
Title not in use 2016–2017
Damian Green
MP for Ashford
(born 1956)
11 June
20 December
Conservative May II [13][14]
Title not in use 2017–2019
Dominic Raab
MP for Esher and Walton
(born 1974)
24 July

Conservative Johnson [15]


See also


  1. Served as Secretary of State for Economic Affairs until August 1967
  2. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from March 1968
  3. Deputy Prime Minister from May 1997
  4. Served as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs until July 2014.
  5. Served as Leader of the House of Commons from July 2014


  2. Nicholas Watt (8 May 2015). "George Osborne made first secretary of state in cabinet reshuffle". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  3. "Damian Green sacked after 'misleading statements' on porn claims". BBC News. 21 December 2017.
  4. "Damian Green sacked over porn cover-up as Theresa May suffers third Cabinet departure in two months". The Telegraph.
  5. "Dominic Raab appointed UK foreign secretary, first secretary of state: statement". Reuters. London. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  6. "First Secretary of State - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2017-07-25.
  7. Howard, Anthony (February 7, 2013). "RAB: The Life of R.A. Butler". A&C Black.
  8. David Butler and Gareth Butler, British Political Facts 1900–1994 (7th edn, Macmillan 1994) 62.
  9. "Lord Heseltine". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  10. "Lord Prescott". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  11. "Lord Hague of Richmond". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  12. "Rt Hon George Osborne". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  13. "Rt Hon Damian Green MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  14. Stewart, Heather. "Damian Green sacked as first secretary of state after porn allegations". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
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