Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, better known as Secretaries of State, are senior
Ministers of the Crown Minister of the Crown is a formal constitutional term used in Commonwealth realms to describe a minister of the reigning sovereign or viceroy. The term indicates that the minister serves ''at His/Her Majesty's pleasure'', and advises the sovereig ...
in the
Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
. Secretaries of State head most major government departments and make up the majority of the
Cabinet of the United Kingdom The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is a group of the most senior ministers of the crown in the government of the United Kingdom. A committee of the Privy Council, it is chaired by the prime minister and its members include secretaries of state a ...
. There are currently 16 different Secretaries of State. They are all also currently
Members of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the people who live in their constituency. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different ...

Legal position

Under the
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, 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 The Interpretation Act 1978 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Act makes provision for the interpretation of Acts of Parliament, Measures of the General Synod of the Church of England, Measures of the Church Assembly, subordinat ...
, 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 The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the g ...


Kingdom of England

The origin of the office lays in the office of the 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