I do not know if my hon. Friend is in a position to answer this question. I have noticed in recent Bills setting up new Ministries this phrase, "the Minister may appoint a Parliamentary Secretary". Everybody knows that a Parliamentary Secretary is appointed by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. However, I noticed that in the Civil Aviation Bill, and now again in this Bill, this phrase is retained. Perhaps my hon. Friend could answer that question on the Report stage if he cannot do so now? The phrase does not make much sense.
I can answer that point. The phrase "the Minister may appoint a Parliamentary Secretary" has many precedents to substantiate it. I have a list here and could quote at least 16 Acts in which it occurred, the last one being the National Insurance Act, 1944, when, I believe, a discussion on this point took place on the Committee stage and the House, as well as the Committee, were satisfied that this phrase was usual and normal, and had precedents to substantiate it. Although we are a Labour Government, we like to act sometimes on precedent.
It is a long and complicated story, and goes back to the Succession to the Crown Act, 1707, and its provisions in respect of profit under the the Crown. Those of us who were in the House during the last Parliament, will remember that we had long discussions on this subject. We were then satisfied that this phrasing had long usage to support it and had worked very well. We think there is nothing to be said against continuing it.
The argument used by my hon. Friend may be an argument in favour of continuance, but it could be an argument that it is high time this was changed. I have never been impressed by arguments that a thing has always been done in such a way, because that might be an abuse. It is high time that meaningless words are looked into, and, if possible, eliminated from Acts of Parliament.
They are not meaningless. It is not proposed to appoint a Parliamentary Secretary at the moment, though at some future time it may be necessary. This phrase in the Bill merely permits appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary, with, of course, the agreement of the Prime Minister. The phrase has been in many enactments and been effective hitherto. There is no real point of principle here, and, therefore, I hope the Committee will let it stand.