First Secretary of State
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The First Secretary of State is an office that is sometimes held by a
minister of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a Minister (government), minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy. The term indicates that the minister serves At His Majesty's pleasure, at His ...
in the
Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal coat of arms of t ...
. The office indicates seniority, including over all other Secretaries of State. The office is not always in use, so there have sometimes been extended gaps between successive holders. The office is currently vacant, having most recently been held by
Dominic Raab Dominic Rennie Raab (; born 25 February 1974) is a British politician who has served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Secretary of State for Justice, and Lord Chancellor since October 2022, having previously served from 2021 to S ...
between July 2019 and September 2021.


Constitutional position

Like the
Deputy Prime Minister A deputy prime minister or vice prime minister is, in some countries, a Minister (government), government minister who can take the position of acting prime minister when the prime minister is temporarily absent. The position is often likened to th ...
, the First Secretary enjoys no right of automatic succession to the office of
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
. However, when Prime Minister
Boris Johnson Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (; born 19 June 1964) is a British politician, writer and journalist who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 20 ...
was moved to an
intensive care unit image:Intensivstation (01) 2007-03-03.jpg, 220px, Intensive care unit An intensive care unit (ICU), also known as an intensive therapy unit or intensive treatment unit (ITU) or critical care unit (CCU), is a special department of a hospital or h ...
on 6 April 2020 after contracting
COVID-19 Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by a virus, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was COVID-19 pandemic in Hubei, identified in Wuhan, China, in December ...
, First Secretary Dominic Raab was asked "to deputise for him where necessary." The office temporarily enjoyed some greater constitutional footing between when it was incorporated as a
corporation sole A corporation sole is a Legal person, legal entity consisting of a single ("sole") incorporated office, occupied by a single ("sole") natural person.
in 2002 and having all of its remaining functions transferred in 2008. During most of this time,
John Prescott John Leslie Prescott, Baron Prescott (born 31 May 1938) is a British politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and as First Secretary of State from 2001 to 2007. A member of the Labour Party (UK), ...
was the First Secretary.


History

In
1962 Events January * January 1 – Samoa, Western Samoa becomes independent from New Zealand. * January 3 – Pope John XXIII Excommunication, excommunicates Fidel Castro for preaching communism. * January 8 – Harmelen train disas ...
,
Rab Butler Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, (9 December 1902 – 8 March 1982), also known as R. A. Butler and familiarly known from his initials as Rab, was a prominent British Conservative Party politician. ''The Times ''T ...
was the first person to be appointed to the office, in part to avoid earlier royal objections to the office of Deputy Prime Minister. The office gave Butler ministerial superiority over the rest of the Cabinet and indicated that he was second-in-command.
Harold Wilson James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from October 1964 to June 1970, and again from March 1974 to April 1976. He ...
appointed three people to the office between 1964 and 1970, but it has been noted by Anthony Seldon et al. that the office may have caught on "...more as an ego-massager than for functional reasons." Later,
Michael Heseltine Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, (; born 21 March 1933) is a British politician and businessman. Having begun his career as a property developer, he became one of the founders of the publishing house Haymarket Media Group, Haymar ...
and John Prescott held the office alongside being Deputy Prime Minister. The two offices have only existed concurrently with different holders in
David Cameron David William Donald Cameron (born 9 October 1966) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2016 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 2005 to ...
's
coalition government A coalition government is a form of government in which political parties cooperate to form a government. The usual reason for such an arrangement is that no single party has achieved an absolute majority after an election, an atypical outcome in ...
, wherein Liberal Democrat Leader
Nick Clegg Sir Nicholas William Peter Clegg (born 7 January 1967) is a British media executive and former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who has been president for global affairs at Meta Platforms since 2022, having previously been vicepre ...
was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, while Conservative
William Hague William is a male Male (Mars symbol, symbol: ♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete (sex cell) known as sperm, which fuses with the larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male organism cannot sexu ...
was First Secretary.


Responsibilities

The office is currently listed on the gov.uk website as bringing no additional responsibilities. However, Lord Norton says that there are two benefits to a Prime Minister in appointing a First Secretary: firstly, it leaves a senior minister free to perform correlation and co-ordination and to chair committees and, secondly, it enables the Prime Minister to send a signal as to the status of the holder. Stephen Thornton and Jonathan Kirkup have said that "the Office of First Secretary of State is only as important as the person holding that office is perceived to be important", but in certain circumstances the office "...can assume acute importance and real power" and it may yet become an office of substance.


List of First Secretaries of State


Timeline


See also

*
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom is a minister of the Crown and a member of the British Cabinet. The office is not always in use, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, prime ministers may use other offices, such as First Sec ...


Notes


References

{{Downing Street Ministerial offices in the United Kingdom Honorary titles of the United Kingdom sv:First Secretary of State