Permanent Secretary

Permanent Secretary

Permanent Secretary

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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.


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”.


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...
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