First Secretary of State

First Secretary of State
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Official portrait of Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP.jpg
Dominic Raab

since 24 July 2019
Government of the United Kingdom
Office of the Prime Minister
Style The Right Honourable
First Secretary of State (informal)
Member of
Reports to The Prime Minister
Residence None, may use Grace and favour residences
Seat Westminster, London
Nominator The Prime Minister
Appointer The British Monarch
on the advice of the Prime Minister
Term length No fixed term
Inaugural holder Rab Butler
Formation 13 July 1962
Salary £153,022 (annual, including £81,932 MP's salary)[1]
Website Official website

First Secretary of State is an office sometimes held by a minister in the Government of the United Kingdom.

The office indicates seniority,[2] including over all other Secretaries of State.[3] The office is not always in use, so there have sometimes been extended gaps between successive holders. The incumbent First Secretary, Dominic Raab, was appointed on 24 July 2019.[4]

Constitutional position

Like the Deputy Prime Minister, the First Secretary enjoys no right of automatic succession to the office of Prime Minister.[5] However, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to an intensive care unit on 6 April 2020 after contracting COVID-19, First Secretary Dominic Raab was asked "to deputise for him where necessary."[6]

The office temporarily enjoyed some greater constitutional footing between when it was incorporated as a corporation sole in 2002[7] and having all of its remaining functions transferred in 2008.[8] During most of this time, John Prescott was the First Secretary.

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, co-ordination and chair committees and, secondly, it enables the Prime Minister to send a signal as to the status of the holder.[9] 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",[10] but in certain circumstances the office "...can assume acute importance and real power" and it may yet become an office of substance.[11]


In 1962, Rab Butler was the first person to be appointed to the office, in part to avoid earlier royal objections to the office of Deputy Prime Minister.[12] The office gave him ministerial superiority over the rest of the Cabinet.[13]

Later, Michael Heseltine and John Prescott held the office alongside being Deputy Prime Minister.[14] The two offices have only existed concurrently with different holders in David Cameron's coalition government, wherein Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, while William Hague was First Secretary.[14]


The office is currently listed as bringing no additional responsibilities on the website.[15]

List of First Secretaries of State

First Secretary of State
Portrait Name
Term of office Other ministerial offices Party Ministry Ref.
Rab Butler.jpg R. A. Butler[16]
MP for Saffron Walden
13 July
18 October
Conservative Macmillan II [17]
Office not in use 1963–1964
GeorgeBrown1967.jpg George Brown
MP for Belper
16 October
11 August
Labour Wilson
(I & II)
Michael Stewart (1966).jpg Michael Stewart
MP for Fulham
11 August
6 April
Labour [17]
Mme Barbara Castle, Ministre britannique du développement outre-mer.jpg Barbara Castle
MP for Blackburn
6 April
19 June
Labour [17]
Office not in use 1970–1995
Lord Heseltine (6969083278).jpg Michael Heseltine
MP for Henley
(born 1933)
20 July
2 May
Conservative Major II [18]
Office not in use 1997–2001
John Prescott on his last day as Deputy Prime Minister, June 2007.jpg John Prescott
MP for Kingston upon Hull East
(born 1938)
8 June
27 June
Labour Blair II [19]
Blair III
Office not in use 2007–2009
Peter Mandelson, September 2008.jpg Peter Mandelson
Baron Mandelson

(born 1953)
5 June
11 May
Labour Brown
William Hague Foreign Secretary (2010).jpg William Hague
MP for Richmond (Yorks)
(born 1961)
12 May
8 May
Conservative Cameron–Clegg
Osborne 2015.jpg George Osborne
MP for Tatton
(born 1971)
8 May
13 July
Conservative Cameron II [21]
Office not in use 2016–2017
Official portrait of Rt Hon Damian Green MP crop 2.jpg Damian Green
MP for Ashford
(born 1956)
11 June
20 December
Conservative May II [22]
Office not in use 2017–2019
Official portrait of Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP crop 2.jpg Dominic Raab
MP for Esher and Walton
(born 1974)
24 July
Incumbent Conservative Johnson
(I & II)


Dominic RaabDamian GreenGeorge OsborneWilliam HaguePeter MandelsonJohn PrescottMichael HeseltineBarbara CastleMichael StewartGeorge BrownRab Butler

See also