Thursday, 21 June 2012
Statute Law Revision Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages
Regina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
I am sharing time with Deputy John Paul Phelan.
The Statute Law Revision Bill will repeal all spent or obsolete local and personal Acts enacted between 1851 and 1922 and private Acts enacted between 1751 and 1922.
In historical terms, regulatory reform and the need to make laws accessible for those affected by them dates back to the development of the civilised society. Until 1922, Ireland was part of Britain and the United Kingdom and this historical connection has resulted in the inheritance of a very different regulatory system than the one we have today. When the State was established in 1922, Article 73 of the 1922 Constitution carried over the laws that applied in Ireland up to that date and Article 50 of the 1937 Constitution contained a similar provision. The State did not begin life with a blank legislative canvas but carried over virtually all of the pre-1922 laws that had been put in place up until that time.
Between the 1920s and the 1950s, a certain amount of reform of the laws in Ireland occurred but there was no systematic approach to the issue and the need for reform has long been acknowledged as an important part of public policy. The Bill is the next step in the most extensive statute law revision measure that has ever been undertaken in the State.
The Bill has been considered by all Departments, local authorities and relevant companies, bodies and organisations. I particularly pay tribute to all the officials in a number of Departments who have been working extremely hard on revising the statute law in this area for a long time.
At the publication of the Bill, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, stated that it is the most extensive statute law revision ever attempted anywhere in the world and puts Ireland in a leadership position internationally in terms of the management and updating of the Statute Book. If we take it with previous Acts, this legislation will result in the removal of almost 8,000 obsolete Acts enacted before Irish independence in 1922.
In 2005, the statute law revision project was established to conduct an analysis of, and consult on, statutes which may be appropriate for appeal. This project, which was set up within the Office of the Attorney General, was set the lengthy task of reviewing all legislation on the Statute Book to identify which was spent or obsolete.
The statute law revision project engaged in wide-ranging analysis of all legislation of the various Irish, English, British and United Kingdom parliaments which exercised authority over Ireland prior to Ireland achieving her independence as well as all legislation passed since 1922. The project identified approximately 63,000 statutes which came within its remit for examination.
In tandem with the enactment of this Bill, it is the Minister's intention to move on to review pre-independence secondary legislation and to examine the substantial number of charters and statutory rules passed prior to 1922, but this Bill is merely another phase of that work.
The Schedule to this Bill contains lists of both the Acts specifically repealed and also those that will be retained. Those being repealed in this tranche include a large number of private and local and personal Acts relating to land transfers, conferring of citizenship, setting up of institutions, divorces etc. In addition, the Bill specifies approximately 790 pieces of old legislation, which are still relevant and which are being specifically kept in force.
I acknowledge the extraordinary work that has been done to ensure we modernise, codify and bring up to date the legislative code before the foundation of the State. Up-to-date legislation that is easily accessible and comprehensible to the public is as essential a part of the basic infrastructure of society as a road network or reliable telecommunications system. This initiative firmly places Ireland as an international leader in terms of the management and updating of the Statute Book, and I commend it.