Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (DPM) is an office sometimes held by a minister in the Government of the United Kingdom.

Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Incumbent
(Office not in use)

since 8 May 2015
Government of the United Kingdom
StyleDeputy Prime Minister
(informal)
The Right Honourable
(UK and Commonwealth)
StatusOffice not in use
Member ofCabinet
Privy Council
Reports toPrime Minister
ResidenceNone, may use Grace and favour residences
SeatWestminster, London
AppointerThe Monarch
on advice of the Prime Minister
Term lengthNo fixed term
Formation19 February 1942
First holderClement Attlee
Websitewww.gov.uk

The office is not always in use and Prime Ministers may use other offices, such as First Secretary of State, to give seniority to a particular cabinet minister. Indeed, the office is currently not in use and Dominic Raab is the present First Secretary.

Constitutional position

Unlike analogous offices in some other nations, such as the Vice President of the United States or Vice-Chancellor of Germany, the Deputy Prime Minister has no explicit salary[1] and no right to automatic succession.[2] One argument made against appointing someone to the office is that it might restrict the royal prerogative to choose a Prime Minister,[3] though of course this would only be a political, not a legal, constraint. However, Rodney Brazier has more recently written that there is a strong constitutional case for every Prime Minister to appoint a Deputy Prime Minister, to ensure an effective temporary transfer of power in most circumstances.[4]

Brazier has said that there are three reasons why a Deputy Prime Minister has been appointed: to set out the line of succession to the premiership preferred by the Prime Minister, to promote the efficient discharge of government business and (in the case of Labour governments) to accord recognition to the status of the deputy leader of the Labour party.[3]

In the coalition governments of both Winston Churchill and David Cameron, the leader of a smaller party was also given the office of Deputy Prime Minister: Clement Attlee and Nick Clegg, respectively.[5]

When the office has been in use in the past, the Deputy Prime Minister has deputised for the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Questions.[6]

Unofficial deputies

The Prime Minister's second-in-command has variably served as Deputy Prime Minister, First Secretary and de facto deputy and at other times Prime Ministers have chosen not to select a permanent deputy at all, preferring ad hoc arrangements.[7]

Acting Prime Minister

No person has ever been formally appointed Acting Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. However, when the Prime Minister is travelling, it is standard practice for a senior duty minister to be appointed who can attend to urgent business and meetings if required, though the Prime Minister remains in charge and updated throughout.[8]

On 6 April 2020, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted into ICU, he asked First Secretary of State Dominic Raab "to deputise for him where necessary",[9] though Raab was not appointed Acting Prime Minister.

List

Brazier has listed the following ministers as unambiguously deputy to the Prime Minister, though most of them were never formally appointed Deputy Prime Minister:[10]

Brazier also lists Damian Green (2017) and David Lidington (2018–2019) as de facto deputies.[10]

Lord Norton has listed the following people as serving as deputy prime minister, but not being formally styled as such:[11]

  • Herbert Morrison (1945-1951)
  • Anthony Eden (1951-1955)
  • Rab Butler (1962-1963)
  • Willie Whitelaw (1979-1988)
  • Geoffrey Howe (1989-1990)
  • David Lidlington (2018-2019)

History

Before World War II, a minister was occasionally invited to act as deputy prime minister when the Prime Minister was ill or abroad, but no one was styled as such when the Prime Minister was in the country and physically able to run the government.[12] This changed in 1942 when Clement Attlee was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, though such a designation was seen as an exceptional result of a coalition and the war.[13] Indeed, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, actually requested that the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, should be appointed his successor if he were to die in office, not Attlee.[13] After this, fearing a possible curtailment of the monarch's prerogative to choose a Prime Minister, no one was formally styled Deputy Prime Minister (though there was often a senior minister generally regarded as such) until Michael Heseltine in 1995,[14] a move which represents the system today.

Office and residence

There is no set of offices permanently ready to house the Deputy Prime Minister.[15] The most recent Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, maintained an office at the Cabinet Office headquarters, 70 Whitehall, which is linked to 10 Downing Street.[16] Clegg's predecessor, John Prescott, maintained his main office at 26 Whitehall.[17]

The Prime Minister will also give them the use of a grace and favour country house.[15] While in office, Nick Clegg resided at his private residence in Putney and he shared Chevening House with First Secretary William Hague as a weekend residence.[18] Clegg's predecessor, John Prescott, used Dorneywood.[15]

List of Deputy Prime Ministers

Only four people have so far been formally appointed Deputy Prime Minister.[Note 1][19][20]

Deputy Prime Minister
Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Other ministerial portfolios held during tenure Party Ministry Monarch
(Reign)
Ref.
The Right Honourable
Clement Attlee
MP for Limehouse
(18831967)
1942 1945 Labour Churchill War George VI

(19361952)
[19][11]
The Right Honourable
Michael Heseltine
MP for Henley
(born 1933)
1995 1997
  • First Secretary of State
Conservative Major II Elizabeth II

(1952present)
[19][11]
The Right Honourable
John Prescott
MP for Kingston upon Hull East
(born 1938)
1997 2007
  • Environment, Transport and Regions Secretary (1997–2001)
  • First Secretary of State (2001–2007)
Labour Blair I [19][11]
Blair II
Blair III
The Right Honourable
Nick Clegg
MP for Sheffield Hallam
(born 1967)
2010 2015 Liberal Democrat Cameron–Clegg [19][11]

Timeline

Nick CleggJohn PrescottMichael HeseltineClement Attlee

See also

  • First Secretary of State
  • Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party (UK)
  • Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (UK)

Notes

  1. In his list of official Deputy Prime Ministers, Brazier includes Geoffrey Howe. However, Norton doesn't. Norton explains that Buckingham Palace took issue with appointing Howe "Deputy Prime Minister" and proposed "Sir Geoffrey will act as Deputy Prime Minister".

References

  1. Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975.
  2. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. p. 152. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  3. Brazier, Rodney (1988). "The deputy prime minister". Public Law: 176.
  4. Brazier, Rodney (2020). Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain. Oxford University Press. pp. 82–3. ISBN 978-0-19-885929-1.
  5. Brazier, Rodney (2020). Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain. Oxford University Press. pp. 80–2. ISBN 978-0-19-260307-4.
  6. Priddy, Sarah (19 October 2020). "Attendance of the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) since 1979". parliament.uk. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  7. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  8. Mason, Chris (15 August 2016). "Is Boris Johnson running the country?". BBC News. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  9. "Statement from Downing Street: 6 April 2020". gov.uk. 6 April 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  10. Brazier, Rodney (2020). Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain. Oxford University Press. pp. 80–82. ISBN 978-0-19-885929-1.
  11. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  12. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. pp. 141–2. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  13. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. p. 142. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  14. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. pp. 142–4. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
  15. Brazier, Rodney (2020). Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-19-260307-4.
  16. "Nick Clegg could be given use of stately home where John Prescott played croquet". The Telegraph. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  17. "Deputy Prime Minister | Contact us". gov.uk. Archived from the original on 16 May 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  18. "Hague and Clegg given timeshare of official residence". BBC News. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  19. Brazier, Rodney (2020). Choosing a Prime Minister: The Transfer of Power in Britain. Oxford University Press. p. 77. ISBN 9780198859291.
  20. Norton, Philip (2020). Governing Britain: Parliament, Ministers and Our Ambiguous Constitution. Manchester University Press. pp. 143–4. ISBN 9-781526-145451.
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