In popular culture, I have always heard that the British government is headed by “ministers” – prime minister, foreign minister, etc. And, indeed, in Yes, Minister, Hacker is addressed routinely as “minister.” However, I now see that very few, if any, of the cabinet ministers actually hold the title “minister” as a formal matter; they’re mostly secretaries of state.
So, is “minister” freely accepted as an informal substitute for “secretary of state”? Is it wrong to refer to the “foreign minister” or the “defense minister”? Does the public think of them as “ministers” or “secretaries” (as we do here in the United States)?