The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

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The office of Deputy Prime Minister is one that has only existed occasionally in the history of the United Kingdom. Unlike analogous offices in other nations, the Deputy Prime Minister does not have any of the powers of the Prime Minister in the latter's absence and there is no presumption that the Deputy Prime Minister will succeed the Prime Minister.

The post has existed intermittently and there have been a number of disputed occasions as to whether or not the title has actually been conferred. On some occasions the honorific title First Secretary of State has been conferred on the Deputy Prime Minister.

Labour Party leader Clement Attlee held the post in the wartime coalition government led by Winston Churchill, and had general responsibility for domestic affairs, allowing Churchill to concentrate on the war. Richard Austen Butler held the post in 1962-3 under Harold Macmillan, but was passed over for the premiership in favour of Alec Douglas-Home.

William Whitelaw was Margaret Thatcher's deputy from 1979-1988, a post he combined with that of Home Secretary in 1979-83 and Leader of the House of Lords after 1983. Sir Geoffrey Howe was given the title in 1989, on being removed from the post of Foreign Secretary. He resigned as Deputy Prime Minister in 1990, making a resignation speech that is widely thought to have hastened Thatcher's downfall. Thatcher's successor John Major did not appoint a Deputy Prime Minister until 1995, when Michael Heseltine was given the post.

John Prescott, who was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in opposition, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister by Tony Blair in 1997, in addition to being Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions. In 2001 this "superdepartment" was split up, with Prescott being given his own Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with fewer specific responsibilities.

List of Deputy Prime Ministers

First Secretaries of State