Parliamentary Private Secretaries

The first rung on the ministerial ladder for a government back-bencher comes when an MP is asked by a Secretary of State or Minister of State to become his or her Parliamentary Private Secretary or PPS. Often referred to as a Minister's 'eyes and ears in Parliament' or 'bag carrier', the PPS undertakes to aid and support the Minister in his or her duties. This can include taking soundings among MPs, being a substitute speaker at a function when the Minister is unavailable as well as meeting individuals and organisations on behalf of the Minister.

Although PPSs are not paid for their work, it can be rightly assumed that they will vote with the Government on all issues as though they were on the payroll. Indeed, it is expected that a PPS would resign in circumstances where he or she felt compelled to oppose the Government. The Ministerial Code requires that PPSs are not active in Parliament on issues that come within the remit of the Minister to whom they are appointed, although this does not preclude the tabling of Parliamentary Questions or membership of select committees on other subjects.

The appointment of a PPS is a matter for the Minister and the Prime Minister, although the Whips would normally have to endorse a name put forward prior to the appointment being finalised. It is normal for the Leader of the Opposition to have at least one PPS.