Permanent Secretary: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Permanent Secretary, in most departments officially titled the Permanent Under-Secretary of State (although the full title is rarely used), is the most senior civil servant of a British Government ministry, charged with running the department on a day-to-day basis. The permanent secretary (known by other names in some departments; see below) is the non-political civil service head (and "accounting officer") or chief executive of a government department, as distinct from the political Secretary of State, to whom they report and whom they advise.

Permanent secretaries are the accounting officers for departments, meaning that they are answerable to Parliament for ensuring that the department spends money granted by Parliament appropriately. Permanent Secretaries are thus frequently called for questioning by the Public Accounts Committee and Select Committees of the House of Commons. The permanent secretary usually chairs a department's management board which consists of executive members (other civil servants in the department) and non-executive directors.

Some larger departments also have a Second Permanent Secretary who acts as deputy. In the early 1970s, there was a major reorganisation of Whitehall and many smaller ministries were amalgamated into larger departments. Following this reorganisation, virtually all departments had second permanent secretaries. However, this is no longer the case.

The overall head of the civil service is the Cabinet Secretary, currently Sir Gus O'Donnell. The holder of this office is distinct from other people of permanent secretary rank within the Cabinet Office.

By tradition, permanent secretaries are usually created a Knight or Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath at some point after their appointment or on retirement if not already holding the title (although the Permanent Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be created a Knight or Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George instead). The most senior permanent secretaries, such as the Secretary of the Cabinet, may be created a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, and even be given a life peerage after retirement. For salary comparison purposes, the permanent secretary is deemed broadly equivalent to a General and to a High Court judge.



When Lord Grey took office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1830, Sir John Barrow was especially requested to continue serving as Secretary in his department (the Admiralty), starting the principle that senior civil servants stay in office on change of government and serve in a non-partisan manner. It was during Barrow's occupancy of the post that it was renamed “Permanent Secretary”.

Current UK permanent secretaries

There are currently 44 individuals in UK government departments with the grade of Permanent Secretary or Second Permanent Secretary; however, not all use these titles[1].

Department Jobholder Title
Cabinet Office Sir Gus O'Donnell KCB Cabinet Secretary
Alex Allan Chair, Joint Intelligence Committee
Matt Tee Permanent Secretary for Government Communications
Jeremy Heywood Permanent Secretary, 10 Downing Street
Jon Cunliffe CB Prime Minister's Adviser on Europe and Global Issues
Stephen Laws CB First Parliamentary Counsel
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Simon Fraser CMG Permanent Secretary
Professor John Beddington CMG Government Chief Scientific Adviser & Head of Government Office for Science
Department for Children, Schools & Families David Bell Permanent Secretary
Department for Communities & Local Government Peter Housden Permanent Secretary
Department for Culture, Media and Sport Jonathan Stephens Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Defence Sir Bill Jeffrey KCB Permanent Secretary
Ursula Brennan Second Permanent Secretary
Professor Mark Welland FRS FREng Chief Scientific Adviser
Department of Energy and Climate Change Moira Wallace Permanent Secretary (acting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Dame Helen Ghosh DCB Permanent Secretary
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sir Peter Ricketts KCMG Permanent Secretary
Government Communications Headquarters Iain Lobban Director
Department of Health Hugh Taylor Permanent Secretary
Sir Liam Donaldson Chief Medical Officer
David Nicholson CBE Chief Executive, NHS
Home Office Sir David Normington KCB Permanent Secretary
Department for International Development Minouche Shafik Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Justice Sir Suma Chakrabarti KCB Permanent Secretary and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery
Carolyn Downs Second Permanent Secretary and Director-General of Corporate Performance
Keir Starmer QC Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service
HM Revenue and Customs Mike Clasper Chairman
Lesley Strathie Chief Executive
Dave Hartnett CB Second Permanent Secretary for Tax
Secret Intelligence Service (formerly MI6) Sir John Sawyers Chief or 'C'
Security Service (formerly MI5) Jonathan Evans Director-General
Department for Transport Robert Devereux Permanent Secretary
HM Treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson Permanent Secretary
Tom Scholar Second Permanent Secretary and Managing Director of Public Services and Growth
Nigel Smith Chief Executive, Office of Government Commerce
Treasury Solicitor's Department Paul Jenkins QC Treasury Solicitor
Department for Work and Pensions Sir Leigh Lewis KCB Permanent Secretary
Darra Singh Second Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive, JobCentre Plus
UK Statistics Authority Jil Matheson National Statistician
Northern Ireland Executive Jonathan Phillips Permanent Secretary
Northern Ireland Civil Service Bruce Robinson Permanent Secretary
Scottish Government Sir John Elvidge KCB Permanent Secretary
Welsh Assembly Government Dame Gillian Morgan DBE Permanent Secretary

Outside the UK

In some countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, the popular term for the equivalent position is now “Principal Secretary”.

In Australia, the position is called the “Secretary of the Department”, or “Director-General of the Department” in some states and territories.

In Canada, the position is “Deputy Minister”.

In Germany, the equivalent office is called Staatssekretär (state secretary).

In Hong Kong, heads of policy bureaux, i.e., Secretaries, were filled by civil servants until their titles were changed to Permanent Secretaries in 2002, when political appointees filled the positions of secretaries under the second Tung Chee Hua government. Since August 2005, the Office of the Chief Executive also has a permanent secretary. His ranking is, however, lower than most other permanent secretaries as according to the pay scale.

In the Republic of Ireland, the position of “Secretary-General” of a Department is almost identical to that of a Permanent Secretary in the British Civil Service, with the exception that since the introduction in the mid-1990s of the Strategic Management Initiative, the post is no longer permanent, but carries a seven year time limit. This coincided with the introduction of the change of title from the previous title of “Secretary”. Irish government departments may also have a “Second Secretary”, which is equivalent to the Second Permanent Secretary grade in the British Civil Service. See also Civil service of the Republic of Ireland.

In New Zealand, the civil service head of a ministry is ordinarily titled “Chief Executive”, though in some cases (such as the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service) the title is “Director-General”. Organisations with enforcement powers, such as the Inland Revenue Department, the New Zealand Police, and the New Zealand Customs Service are headed by commissioners. Civil service heads are officially employed by the State Services Commission, further separating them from the politicians who hold ministerial positions.

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