Foreign Secretary

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United Kingdom
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
David Cameron
since 13 November 2023
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
TypeMinister of the Crown
StatusSecretary of State
Great Office of State
Member of
Reports toThe Prime Minister
SeatKing Charles Street
NominatorThe Prime Minister
AppointerThe Monarch
(on the advice of the Prime Minister)
Term lengthAt His Majesty's pleasure
  • 27 March 1782
    (as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs)
  • 2 September 2020
    (as Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)
First holderCharles James Fox
(as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs)
DeputyAndrew Mitchell, Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
Salary£106,363 per annum (2022)[1]
WebsiteForeign Secretary

The secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs, also known as the foreign secretary, is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with responsibility for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.[2] The role is seen as one of the most senior ministers in the UK Government and is a Great Office of State. The incumbent is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and National Security Council, and reports directly to the prime minister.

The officeholder works alongside the other Foreign Office ministers. The corresponding shadow minister is the shadow foreign secretary. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee also evaluates the secretary of state's performance.[3]

The current foreign secretary is David Cameron, who served as prime minister from 2010 until 2016. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appointed Cameron to the post in the November 2023 cabinet reshuffle.

The role is deputised by the deputy foreign secretary, a position which was incepted in April 2024.


In contrast to what is generally known as a foreign minister in many other countries, the Foreign Secretary's remit includes:


The official residence of the foreign secretary is 1 Carlton Gardens, in London.[7] The foreign secretary also has the use of Chevening House, a country house in Kent, South East England,[8] and works from the Foreign Office in Whitehall.[9]


History of English and British government departments with responsibility for foreign affairs and those with responsibility for the colonies, dominions and the Commonwealth
Northern Department
Southern Department
Southern Department
1782: diplomatic responsibilities transferred to new Foreign Office
Colonial Office
Foreign Office
Home Office
War Office
War and Colonial Office
Colonial Office
India Office
Colonial Office
Dominions Office
India Office and Burma Office
Commonwealth Relations Office
Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Since 2020

The title secretary of state in the government of England dates back to the early 17th century. The position of secretary of state for foreign affairs was created in the British governmental reorganisation of 1782, in which the Northern and Southern Departments became the Foreign Office and Home Office respectively.[10] The India Office which, like the Colonial Office and the Dominions Office, had been a constituent predecessor department of the Foreign Office, was closed down in 1947.[11]

Eventually, the position of secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs came into existence in 1968 with the merger of the functions of secretary of the state for foreign affairs and the secretary of state for Commonwealth affairs into a single department of state. Margaret Beckett, appointed in 2006 by Tony Blair, was the first woman to have held the post.[12]

The post of secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs was created in 2020 when position holder Dominic Raab absorbed the responsibilities of the secretary of state for international development.[13]

List of foreign secretaries[edit]

Secretaries of state for foreign affairs (1782–1968)[edit]

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs[14]
Portrait Name[15] Term of office Party Ministry Monarch
Charles James Fox[14]
MP for Westminster
27 March 1782 5 July 1782 Whig Rockingham II George III

[1782 1]
Thomas Robinson
2nd Baron Grantham
13 July 1782 2 April 1783 Whig Shelburne
Charles James Fox[14]
MP for Westminster
2 April 1783 19 December 1783 Whig Fox–North
George Nugent-Temple-Grenville
3rd Earl Temple
19 December 1783 23 December 1783 Tory Pitt I
His Grace
Francis Osborne
5th Duke of Leeds
23 December 1783 May 1791 Tory
William Grenville
1st Baron Grenville
[14]PC FRS
8 June 1791 20 February 1801 Tory
Robert Jenkinson
2nd Earl of Liverpool
KG PC[14]
MP for Rye[1782 2]
20 February 1801 14 May 1804 Tory
Dudley Ryder
2nd Baron Harrowby
14 May 1804 11 January 1805 Tory Pitt II
Henry Phipps
3rd Baron Mulgrave
11 January 1805 7 February 1806 Tory
Charles James Fox[14]
MP for Westminster
7 February 1806 13 September 1806 Whig All the Talents
Charles Grey
Viscount Howick
MP for Northumberland
24 September 1806 25 March 1807 Whig

George Canning
25 March 1807 11 October 1809 Tory Portland II
Henry Bathurst
3rd Earl Bathurst
11 October 1809 6 December 1809 Tory Perceval
Richard Wellesley
1st Marquess Wellesley
6 December 1809 4 March 1812 Independent
Robert Stewart
2nd Marquess of Londonderry
4 March 1812 12 August 1822 Tory Liverpool
George IV
George Canning[14]
MP for 3 constituencies respectively
16 September 1822 30 April 1827 Tory
John Ward
1st Earl of Dudley
30 April 1827 2 June 1828 Tory Canning
George Hamilton-Gordon
4th Earl of Aberdeen
2 June 1828 22 November 1830 Tory
William IV
Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston
MP for 3 constituencies respectively
22 November 1830 14 November 1834 Whig Grey
Melbourne I
Arthur Wellesley
1st Duke of Wellington
14 November 1834 18 April 1835 Tory Wellington Caretaker
Conservative Peel I
Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston
MP for Tiverton
18 April 1835 2 September 1841 Whig Melbourne II

George Hamilton-Gordon
4th Earl of Aberdeen
2 September 1841 6 July 1846 Conservative Peel II
Henry John Temple
3rd Viscount Palmerston
MP for Tiverton
6 July 1846 26 December 1851 Whig Russell I
Granville Leveson-Gower
2nd Earl Granville
26 December 1851 27 February 1852 Whig
James Howard Harris
3rd Earl of Malmesbury
27 February 1852 28 December 1852 Conservative Who? Who?
Lord John Russell[14]
MP for the City of London
28 December 1852 21 February 1853 Whig Aberdeen
George Villiers
4th Earl of Clarendon
21 February 1853 26 February 1858 Whig
Palmerston I
James Howard Harris
3rd Earl of Malmesbury
26 February 1858 18 June 1859 Conservative Derby–Disraeli II
John Russell
1st Earl Russell
18 June 1859 3 November 1865 Liberal Palmerston II
George Villiers
4th Earl of Clarendon
3 November 1865 6 July 1866 Liberal Russell II
Edward Stanley
Lord Stanley
MP for King's Lynn
6 July 1866 9 December 1868 Conservative Derby–Disraeli III
George Villiers
4th Earl of Clarendon
9 December 1868 6 July 1870 Liberal Gladstone I
Granville Leveson-Gower
2nd Earl Granville
6 July 1870 21 February 1874 Liberal
Edward Stanley
15th Earl of Derby
21 February 1874 2 April 1878 Conservative Disraeli II
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
2 April 1878 28 April 1880 Conservative
Granville Leveson-Gower
2nd Earl Granville
28 April 1880 24 June 1885 Liberal Gladstone II
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
24 June 1885 6 February 1886 Conservative Salisbury I
Archibald Primrose
5th Earl of Rosebery
6 February 1886 3 August 1886 Liberal Gladstone III
Stafford Northcote
1st Earl of Iddesleigh
3 August 1886 12 January 1887 Conservative Salisbury II
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
14 January 1887 11 August 1892 Conservative
Archibald Primrose
5th Earl of Rosebery
18 August 1892 11 March 1894 Liberal Gladstone IV
John Wodehouse
1st Earl of Kimberley
11 March 1894 21 June 1895 Liberal Rosebery
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
3rd Marquess of Salisbury
29 June 1895 12 November 1900 Conservative Salisbury
(III & IV)

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice
5th Marquess of Lansdowne
12 November 1900 4 December 1905 Liberal Unionist
Edward VII

Edward Grey[14]
MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed
10 December 1905 10 December 1916 Liberal Campbell-Bannerman
George V
Asquith Coalition
(Lib.Con.–et al.)
Arthur Balfour[14]
MP for the City of London
10 December 1916 23 October 1919 Conservative Lloyd George
(I & II)
George Curzon
1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
23 October 1919 22 January 1924 Conservative
Baldwin I
Ramsay MacDonald[14]
MP for Aberavon
22 January 1924 3 November 1924 Labour MacDonald I
Austen Chamberlain[14]
MP for Birmingham West
6 November 1924 4 June 1929 Conservative Baldwin II
Arthur Henderson[14]
MP for Burnley
7 June 1929 24 August 1931 Labour MacDonald II
Rufus Isaacs
1st Marquess of Reading
25 August 1931 5 November 1931 Liberal National I
(N.Lab.Con.–et al.)
John Simon[14]
MP for Spen Valley
5 November 1931 7 June 1935 Liberal National National II
Samuel Hoare[14]
MP for Chelsea
7 June 1935 18 December 1935 Conservative National III
(Con.N.Lab.–et al.)
Anthony Eden[14]
MP for Warwick & Leamington
22 December 1935 20 February 1938 Conservative
Edward VIII

George VI
National IV
Edward Wood
3rd Viscount Halifax
21 February 1938 22 December 1940 Conservative
Chamberlain War
Churchill War
(All parties)
Anthony Eden[14]
MP for Warwick & Leamington
22 December 1940 26 July 1945 Conservative
Churchill Caretaker
Ernest Bevin[14]
27 July 1945 9 March 1951 Labour Attlee
(I & II)
Herbert Morrison[14]
MP for Lewisham South
9 March 1951 26 October 1951 Labour
Anthony Eden[14]
MP for Warwick & Leamington
28 October 1951 7 April 1955 Conservative Churchill III
Elizabeth II
Harold Macmillan[14]
MP for Bromley
7 April 1955 20 December 1955 Conservative Eden
Selwyn Lloyd[14]
MP for Wirral
20 December 1955 27 July 1960 Conservative
(I & II)
Alec Douglas-Home
14th Earl of Home
27 July 1960 18 October 1963 Conservative
Richard Austen Butler[14]
MP for Saffron Walden
20 October 1963 16 October 1964 Conservative Douglas-Home
President John F. Kennedy with Member of Parliament of Great Britain, Patrick Gordon Walker.jpg
Patrick Gordon Walker[14]
Neither an MP nor a Lord[1782 5]
16 October 1964 22 January 1965 Labour Wilson
(I & II)
Michael Stewart[14]
MP for Fulham
22 January 1965 11 August 1966 Labour
George Brown[14]
MP for Belper
11 August 1966 16 March 1968 Labour
Michael Stewart[14]
MP for Fulham
16 March 1968 17 October 1968 Labour
^† Died in office.
  1. ^ The Prince of Wales served as prince regent from 5 February 1811.
  2. ^ Elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom in November 1803.
  3. ^ Elected to a new constituency in the 1807 general election.
  4. ^ Elected to a new constituency in the 1950 general election.
  5. ^ Walker was the MP for Smethwick and Labour's shadow Foreign Secretary, prior to the 1964 general election. He lost his seat in the election but was appointed to the post anyway. He resigned after fighting and losing a 1965 by-election in Leyton.

Secretaries of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs (1968–2020)[edit]

Post created through the merger of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Portrait Name[16]
Term of office Party Ministry Sovereign
Michael Stewart[14]
MP for Fulham
17 October 1968 19 June 1970 Labour Wilson
(I & II)
Elizabeth II

Alec Douglas-Home[14]
MP for Kinross and Western Perthshire
20 June 1970 4 March 1974 Conservative Heath
James Callaghan[14]
MP for Cardiff South East
5 March 1974 5 April 1976 Labour Wilson
(III & IV)
Anthony Crosland[14]
MP for Great Grimsby
8 April 1976 19 February 1977 Labour Callaghan
David Owen[14]
MP for Plymouth Devonport
(born 1938)
22 February 1977 4 May 1979 Labour
Peter Carington
6th Baron Carrington
4 May 1979 5 April 1982 Conservative Thatcher I
Francis Pym[14]
MP for Cambridgeshire
6 April 1982 11 June 1983 Conservative
Geoffrey Howe[14]
MP for East Surrey
11 June 1983 24 July 1989 Conservative Thatcher II
Thatcher III
John Major[14]
MP for Huntingdon
(born 1943)
24 July 1989 26 October 1989 Conservative
Douglas Hurd[14]
MP for Witney
(born 1930)
26 October 1989 5 July 1995 Conservative
Major I
Major II
Malcolm Rifkind[14]
MP for Edinburgh Pentlands
(born 1946)
5 July 1995 2 May 1997 Conservative
Robin Cook[14]
MP for Livingston
2 May 1997 8 June 2001 Labour Blair I
Jack Straw[14]
MP for Blackburn
(born 1946)
8 June 2001 5 May 2006 Labour Blair II
Blair III
Margaret Beckett[14]
MP for Derby South
(born 1943)
5 May 2006 27 June 2007 Labour
David Miliband[14]
MP for South Shields
(born 1965)
28 June 2007 11 May 2010 Labour Brown
William Hague[14]
MP for Richmond (Yorks)
(born 1961)
12 May 2010 14 July 2014 Conservative Cameron–Clegg
Philip Hammond[14]
MP for Runnymede and Weybridge
(born 1955)
14 July 2014 13 July 2016 Conservative
Cameron II
Boris Johnson[14][17]
MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip
(born 1964)
13 July 2016 9 July 2018 Conservative May I
May II
Jeremy Hunt[18]
MP for South West Surrey
(born 1966)
9 July 2018 24 July 2019 Conservative
Dominic Raab[19]
MP for Esher and Walton
(born 1974)
24 July 2019 2 September 2020 Conservative Johnson I
Johnson II

Secretaries of state for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (2020–present)[edit]

Post created through the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development.

Portrait Name[16]
Term of office Party Ministry Sovereign
Dominic Raab
MP for Esher and Walton
(born 1974)
2 September 2020 15 September 2021 Conservative Johnson II Elizabeth II

Liz Truss
MP for South West Norfolk
(born 1975)
15 September 2021 6 September 2022 Conservative
James Cleverly
MP for Braintree
(born 1969)
6 September 2022 13 November 2023 Conservative Truss
Charles III

David Cameron
Baron Cameron of Chipping Norton
(born 1966)
13 November 2023 Incumbent Conservative


David CameronJames CleverlyLiz TrussDominic RaabJeremy HuntBoris JohnsonPhilip HammondWilliam HagueDavid MilibandMargaret BeckettJack StrawRobin CookMalcom RifkindDouglas HurdJohn MajorGeoffrey HoweFrancis PymPeter Carington, 6th Baron CarringtonDavid OwenAnthony CroslandJames CallaghanGeorge Brown, Baron George-BrownMichael Stewart, Baron Stewart of FulhamPatrick Gordon WalkerRab ButlerAlec Douglas-HomeSelwyn LloydHarold MacmillanHerbert MorrisonErnest BevinEdward Wood, 1st Earl of HalifaxAnthony EdenSamuel Hoare, 1st Viscount TemplewoodJohn Simon, 1st Viscount SimonRufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of ReadingArthur HendersonAusten ChamberlainRamsay MacDonaldGeorge Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of KedlestonArthur BalfourEdward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of FallodonHenry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of LansdowneJohn Wodehouse, 1st Earl of KimberlyStafford Northcote, 1st Earl of IddesleighArchibald Primrose, 5th Earl of RoseberyRobert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of SalisburyEdward Stanley, 15th Earl of DerbyGeorge Villiers, 4th Earl of ClarendonJohn Russell, 1st Earl RussellJames Howard Harris, 3rd Earl of MalmesburyGranville Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl GranvilleArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of WellingtonHenry John Temple, 3rd Viscount PalmerstonGeorge Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of AberdeenJohn Ward, 1st Earl of DudleyRobert Stewart, Viscount CastlereaghRichard Wellesley, 1st Marquess WellesleyHenry Bathurst, 3nd Earl BathurstGeorge CanningCharles Grey, 2nd Earl GreyHenry Phipps, 3rd Baron MulgraveDudley Ryder, 2nd Baron HarrowbyRobert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of LiverpoolWilliam Grenville, 1st Baron GrenvilleFrancis Osborne, 5th Duke of LeedsGeorge Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of BuckinghamThomas Robinson, 2nd Baron GranthamCharles James Fox

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Salaries of Members of His Majesty's Government – Financial Year 2022–23" (PDF). 15 December 2022.
  2. ^ "Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs". Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Afghanistan: The questions facing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab". BBC News. 1 September 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will be grilled by the Foreign Affairs Committee over his handling of the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  4. ^ Archives, The National. "Senior Cabinet posts".
  5. ^ a b "Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  6. ^ "Ministerial responsibility". GCHQ. 23 March 2016. Archived from the original on 7 July 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2017. Day-to-day ministerial responsibility for GCHQ lies with the Foreign Secretary.
  7. ^ "Written Answers to Questions: Foreign and Commonwealth Office: 1 Carlton Gardens". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 6 May 2009. col. 165W.
  8. ^ "Dominic Raab and Liz Truss agree to share 115-room mansion". BBC News. 13 October 2021.
  9. ^ Hughes, Laura (25 December 2021). "Britain's Foreign Office has badly lost its way, say critics". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  10. ^ Sainty, J. C. (1973). "Introduction". Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 2 – Officials of the Secretaries of State 1660–1782. University of London. pp. 1–21 – via British History Online. At the Restoration [in 1660] the practice of appointing two Secretaries of State, which was well established before the Civil War, was resumed. Apart from the modifications which were made necessary by the occasional existence of a third secretaryship, the organisation of the secretariat underwent no fundamental change from that time until the reforms of 1782 which resulted in the emergence of the Home and Foreign departments. ... English domestic affairs remained the responsibility of both Secretaries throughout the period. In the field of foreign affairs there was a division into a Northern and a Southern Department, each of which was the responsibility of one Secretary. The distinction between the two departments emerged only gradually. It was not until after 1689 that their names passed into general currency. Nevertheless the division of foreign business itself can, in its broad outlines, be detected in the early years of the reign of Charles II.
  11. ^ "India Office". British Museum. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  12. ^ "Margaret Beckett". European Leadership Network. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Merging success: Bringing together the FCO and DFID : Government Response to Committee's Second Report". UK Parliament. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg "Past Foreign Secretaries". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  15. ^ Including honorifics and constituencies for elected MPs.
  16. ^ a b Including honorifics and constituencies for elected MPs.
  17. ^ "Boris Johnson quits to add to pressure on May over Brexit". BBC News. 9 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Jeremy Hunt replaces Boris Johnson as foreign secretary". BBC News. 9 July 2018.
  19. ^ Andrew Sparrow (24 July 2019). "Raab appointed foreign secretary and first secretary of state". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  20. ^ Walker, Peter (13 November 2023). "Explainer: He's not an MP, so how can David Cameron return to the cabinet?". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cecil, Algernon. British foreign secretaries, 1807–1916: studies in personality and policy (1927). pp. 89–130. online
  • Goodman, Sam. The Imperial Premiership: The Role of the Modern Prime Minister in Foreign Policy Making, 1964–2015 (Oxford UP, 2016).
  • Hughes, Michael. British Foreign Secretaries in an Uncertain World, 1919–1939. (Routledge, 2004).
  • Johnson, Gaynor. "Introduction: The Foreign Office and British Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century", Contemporary British History, (2004) 18:3, 1–12, doi:10.1080/1361946042000259279
  • Neilson, Keith, and Thomas G. Otte. The permanent under-secretary for foreign affairs, 1854–1946 (Routledge, 2008).
  • Otte, Thomas G. The Foreign Office Mind: The Making of British Foreign Policy, 1865–1914 (Cambridge UP, 2011).
  • Seldon, Anthony. The Impossible Office? The History of the British Prime Minister (2021) excerpt major scholarly history. Covers the relations with Prime Minister in Chapter 8.
  • Steiner, Zara. The Foreign Office and Foreign Policy, 1898–1914 (1986).
  • Temperley, Harold. "British Secret Diplomacy from Canning to Grey." Cambridge Historical Journal 6.1 (1938): 1–32.
  • Theakston, Kevin, ed. British foreign secretaries since 1974 (Routledge, 2004).
  • Wilson, Keith M., ed. British foreign secretaries and foreign policy: from Crimean War to First World War (1987).

External links[edit]