Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister

The Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister is a position serving the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The holder of the office is widely viewed as the Prime Minister's "eyes and ears" on the backbenches, serving as a liaison to the Prime Minister's parliamentary party.[1][2] The Parliamentary Private Secretary is also responsible for meeting with members of Parliament when the Prime Minister is unavailable, and accompanying the Prime Minister to, and assisting them with preparations for Prime Minister's Questions.[2][3]

Parliamentary Private Secretary
to the Prime Minister
Royal Arms as used by Her Majesty's Government
Alex Burghart and James Heappey

since 2019
Prime Minister's Office
AppointerPrime Minister
First holderHubert Carr-Gomm
Website10 Downing Street

The Parliamentary Private Secretary can become a highly powerful and significant role; Bonar Law's Parliamentary Private Secretary, J.C.C. Davidson acted in effect as his Chief of Staff.[3] Margaret Thatcher's downfall from the Conservative Party leadership in 1990 is attributed by many[4][5][6] to the actions of her Parliamentary Private Secretary, Peter Morrison, in failing accurately to count votes amongst Conservative backbenchers. Some Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister go on to hold higher office; Alec Douglas-Home served as Parliamentary Private Secretary under Neville Chamberlain and later went on to serve as Prime Minister in his own right.[7]

There can be multiple Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister at a given time. Many Prime Ministers have used this tactic during their premierships; former Prime Minister, David Cameron, only employed one Parliamentary Private Secretary at a time during his tenure in office, but he appointed John Henry Hayes as a minister without portfolio with responsibility for the Parliamentary Conservative Party, a job typically reserved for the Parliamentary Private Secretary.[8][9]

The current Parliamentary Private Secretaries to Prime Minister Boris Johnson are Alex Burghart[10] and James Heappey.[11]

Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister (1906–present)

Name Portrait Term of office Political party Prime Minister
Hubert Carr-Gomm 1906 1908 Liberal Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Hon. Geoffrey Howard 1908 1909 Liberal H. H. Asquith
Hon. Charles Lyell 1908 1915 Liberal
H. H. Asquith
Sir John Barran, Bt 1916 1918 Liberal David Lloyd George
David Davies 1916 1918 Liberal
William Sutherland 1916 1918 Liberal
Hon. Waldorf Astor 1918 Conservative
William Sutherland 1919 1920 Liberal
Sir Philip Sassoon, Bt 1920 1922 Conservative
J.C.C. Davidson 1922 1923 Conservative Bonar Law
Sidney Herbert 1923 1924 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
Lauchlin MacNeill Weir 1924 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
Sidney Herbert 1924 1927 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
Hon. Charles Rhys 1927 1929 Conservative
Lauchlin MacNeill Weir 1929 1931 Labour Ramsay MacDonald
Robert Morrison 1929 1931 Labour
Frank Markham 1931 1932 National Labour Ramsay MacDonald
(First National ministry · Second National ministry)
John Glyn 1931 1935 Conservative
John Vigers Worthington 1931 1935 National Labour
Geoffrey Lloyd 1935 Conservative Stanley Baldwin
Thomas Dugdale 1935 1937 Conservative
Lord Dunglass 1937 1940 Conservative Neville Chamberlain
Brendan Bracken 1940 1941 Conservative Winston Churchill
George Harvie-Watt 1941 1945 Conservative
Geoffrey de Freitas 1945 1946 Labour Clement Attlee
Arthur Moyle 1946 1951 Labour
Christopher Soames 1952 1955 Conservative Winston Churchill
Robert Carr April 1955 December 1955 Conservative Anthony Eden
Robert Allan 1955 1956 Conservative
Anthony Barber 1957 1959 Conservative Harold Macmillan
Knox Cunningham 1959 1963 Conservative
Francis Pearson November 1963 October 1964 Conservative Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Ernest Fernyhough 1964 1967 Labour Harold Wilson
Peter Shore 1965 1966 Labour
Harold Davies January 1967 June 1970 Labour
Eric Varley November 1968 October 1969 Labour
Timothy Kitson 1970 1974 Conservative Edward Heath
Bill Hamling 1974 1975 Labour Harold Wilson
Kenneth Marks April 1975 December 1975 Labour
John Tomlinson 1975 1976 Labour Co-op
Jack Cunningham 1976 1977 Labour James Callaghan
Roger Stott 1977 1979 Labour
Ian Gow 1979 1983 Conservative Margaret Thatcher
Michael Alison 1983 1987 Conservative
Archie Hamilton 1987 1988 Conservative
Mark Lennox-Boyd 1988 1990 Conservative
Peter Morrison 1988 1990 Conservative
Graham Bright 1990 1994 Conservative John Major
John Devereux Ward 1994 2 May 1997 Conservative
Ann Coffey 2 May 1997 1998 Labour Tony Blair
Bruce Grocott 2 May 1997 8 June 2001 Labour
David Hanson 8 June 2001 6 May 2005 Labour
Keith Hill 6 May 2005 27 June 2007 Labour
Ian Austin 27 June 2007 4 October 2008 Labour Gordon Brown
Angela Smith 27 June 2007 28 June 2009 Labour
Jon Trickett 4 October 2008 12 May 2010 Labour
Anne Snelgrove 8 June 2009 12 May 2010 Labour
Desmond Swayne 12 May 2010 4 September 2012 Conservative David Cameron
Sam Gyimah 4 September 2012 7 October 2013 Conservative
Gavin Williamson 7 October 2013 13 July 2016 Conservative
David Cameron
George Hollingbery 17 July 2016 21 June 2018 Conservative Theresa May
Seema Kennedy 27 June 2017 4 April 2019 Conservative
Andrew Bowie 29 December 2018 24 July 2019 Conservative
Alex Burghart 25 July 2019 Incumbent Conservative Boris Johnson
James Heappey 4 August 2019 Incumbent Conservative

The final instalment of Michael Dobbs's and the BBC's House of Cards trilogy, The Final Cut, includes a character, Claire Carlsen, who serves as Prime Minister Francis Urquhart's Parliamentary Private Secretary, ultimately betraying him by attempting to leak documents about his service in the British Army.

See also


  1. Shell, Donald. "Churchill to Major: The British Prime Ministership Since 1945". Book. C. Hurst & Co. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  2. Barnett, Hilare (2002). Constitutional & Administrative Law. Cavendish Publishing Ltd. p. 322.
  3. Kavanagh, Dennis (2013). The Powers Behind the Prime Minister: The Hidden Influence of Number Ten. HarperCollins UK.
  4. Cosgrave, Patrick (15 July 1995). "Obituary: Sir Peter Morrison". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  5. Hoggart, Simon (16 October 2013). "Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality by Jonathan Aitken – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  6. Clark, Alan (1993). Diary. 354: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  7. "PIL: Parliamentary Private Secretaries to Prime Ministers 1906 – present – Commons Library Standard Note". Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  8. Kirkup, James (28 March 2013). "John Hayes goes to No 10. Is David Cameron admitting to fear of his own party?". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  9. Sparrow, Andrew. "Cameron moves John Hayes in mini reshuffle: Politics live blog". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  10. "The Londoner: The cool cats of Westminster". Evening Standard. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  11. "James Heappey appointed Boris Johnson PPS". 5 August 2019.
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