Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, better known as Secretaries of State, are senior Ministers of the Crown in the Government of the United Kingdom. Secretaries of State head most major government departments and make up the majority of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. There are currently 16 different Secretaries of State. They are all also currently Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Members of Parliament.

Legal position

Under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975, a maximum of 21 Secretaries of State can receive a salary. Legislation also generally only refers to "the Secretary of State" without specifying which one, but, by virtue of the Interpretation Act 1978, this phrase means "one of Her Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State". Despite there only being one Secretary of State in law, in practice, each Secretary of State will perforce stay within their own portfolio. Secretaries of State, like other government ministers, are appointed through the Royal prerogative in the United Kingdom, royal prerogative.


Kingdom of England

The origin of the office lays in the office of the Private Secretary to the Sovereign, King's private secretary. However, by the Tudor period, the office's purview had become more onerous. In 1539 or 1540, Henry VIII appointed two people to the office. After the Stuart Restoration, the practice of appointing two Secretaries of State resumed. A formal division, in the form of the offices of Secretary of State for the Northern Department and the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, was made in 1689, though the office was first divided into the Northern and Southern Department purviews in 1660.

After the Union

In 1782, the arrangement of these offices orally changed, so that one would be responsible for foreign affairs and one for domestic affairs, thus establishing the embryonic offices of Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. Over time, the number of Secretaries of States grew, so that there were five in 1900 and 14 by 1996. There are currently 16 different Secretaries of State.

Secretary of Stateships currently in use

Secretary of Stateships no longer in use

*Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (2003–2007; merged with some duties of Home to create Justice) *Secretary of State for International Development (1997-2020; merged into Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

Health, education, work, business, energy, environment, transport and the regions

The Secretary of Stateships that have been used for the matters of health, education, work, business, energy, environment, transport and the regions are shown in the graphic below. It shows how portfolios of responsibilities have been broadly passed down from one Secretary of State position to the position(s) directly below it. However, it is impossible for such a graphic to be completely accurate; it cannot show smaller changes, or gains or losses of responsibilities within a position due to changes of responsibilities for the UK Government (for example, due to Devolution in the United Kingdom, devolution or Brexit). It is not to scale. In the gaps, and before the first of these Secretaries of State, relevant responsibilities were taken on by ministers not titled 'Secretary of State'. Key:


The Secretary of Stateships that have been used for culture, heritage and sport are as follows:


{{Reflist Titles Government occupations Ministerial positions in the Government of the United Kingdom