A Parliamentary Private Secretary
) is a role given to a United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...
(MP) by a senior minister
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....
in government or shadow minister to act as their contact for the House of Commons; this role is junior to that of Parliamentary Under-Secretary, which is 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:
PPSs 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 their minister's department. As a part of this, the PPS in the Department for Communities and Local Government
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the UK Government department for communities and local government in England. It was established in May 2006 and is the successor to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, established in 2001...
is prevented from being involved with making 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 information to PPSs are rigid.
Ministers choose their own PPS, but must seek the written approval for each candidate from the Prime Minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...
, and it is traditional procedure to consult the Chief Whip
The Chief Whip is a political office in some legislatures assigned to an elected member whose task is to administer the whipping system that ensures that members of the party attend and vote as the party leadership desires.-The Whips Office:...
PPSs are expected to act as part of the payroll vote
Payroll vote is a term in the British Parliamentary System for Members of Parliament who concurrently hold Government positions. It includes ministers, junior ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries: even though the last are unpaid, they are "widely regarded as being on the first rung of...
, voting in line with the government on every division, and regarded as members of the government for purposes of collective responsibility. Similarly, they must not appear as a representative for any special policies.
When on official Departmental business, PPSs travel and subsistence
Travel and subsistence expenses describe the cost of spending on business travel, meals, hotels, sundry items such as laundry and similar ad hoc expenditures....
allowances are 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 their duty.
As a last resort for ministers who must pull out of an event for whatever reason, a PPS may stand in for the minister at the event. This will only happen in exceptional circumstances and must be justified by the minister in charge of the department. If this event is overseas it again requires the Prime Minister's consent.
The role in the career of MPs
The role of PPS is seen as a starting point for many MPs who are looking to become ministers themselves. In 1963, Professor of Political Science Philip W. Buck at Stanford University published a journal article stating:
- "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."
After the leaking of party details in emails associated with Desmond Swayne
Desmond Angus Swayne TD MP , is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He is Member of Parliament for the constituency of New Forest West in Hampshire, and is currently also Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, having been his PPS during his time...
, PPS to David Cameron
David William Donald Cameron is the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party. Cameron represents Witney as its Member of Parliament ....
, a writer of the Thirsk and Malton Labour Party
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...
Constituency Blog commented:
- "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 oncemore - 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"
The use of PPSs has in the past been a source of comedy as seen in the series, Yes Minister
Yes Minister is a satirical British sitcom written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC Television between 1980–1982 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, ran from 1986 to 1988. In total there were 38 episodes—of which all but...
- "James Hacker: Who else is in this department?
- Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well briefly, Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary, I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, 87 Under Secretaries and 219 Assistant Secretaries. Directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries, and the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary.
- James Hacker: Do they all type?
- Sir Humphrey Appleby: None of us can type. Mrs. McKay types. She is the secretary."