I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The Bill continues the process of removing from the Statute Book enactments which have become obsolete, irrelevant or unnecessary for one reason or another. The repeal of archaic enactments is no mere academic exercise. Its essential importance lies in easing the labours of all who have occasion to consult the law, whether as legal practitioners, administrators, businessmen or private citizens. It facilitates the compilation of an up-to-date index of the statutes in force and this, I trust, will be one of the chief results of the present Bill. It would also facilitate the production of a new set of revised statutes, a long-term operation which one would hope, nonetheless, to set in train in the reasonable future.
This Bill is the result of much patient research into the whole surviving body of statute law down to 1922. In this sense it is unique in our jurisdiction. An earlier statute, the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962, revised —as its title implies—statutes of Irish Parliaments down to the Act of Union of 1800. The Bill now before the House undertakes a further review of such statutes, but this is only a small part of its scope. In the main, it is concerned with the repeal of unnecessary English and British statutes.
Before going further, perhaps I should explain the use of the terms "English" and "British" as applied to the statute law. The term "English Statute" refers to the statutes of the Parliament of England passed in the period 1226 to 1707. The term "British Statute" has commonly been used to describe statutes passed since the Union of England with Scotland in 1707, and that description is followed in the heading to Part III of the present Bill. Our Interpretation Act, 1937, gives the term the narrower meaning of "an Act of the Parliament of the late United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland," and, of course, all the statutes in Part IV of the Schedule fall within this category.
The italicised notes in the second column of the Schedule, which do not form part of the Bill, explain the reasons for the repeal of the enactments concerned. Terms used in these notes to indicate why a given enactment is being repealed are explained in the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill. In the great majority of cases the reasons for the repeal will be self-evident even on a cursory view of the statute. Where further explanation seemed desireable it is added. May I, at this point, assure any Deputy who is interested in any particular matter in the Bill that I will be happy to arrange that an official from my office or from the Statute Law Reform and Consolidation Office will be available to give him a full explanation or supply him with such information as he may require?
Section 1 of the Bill gives life to the Schedule by providing for the repeal of the listed enactments, to the extent set out in the third column of the Schedule. It will be noted that, in Parts I and II, the enactments for repeal are termed "statutes" whereas in Parts III and IV they are referred to as "Acts". The reason is historical. The term "statute", which is nowadays used as equivalent to "Act", was at one time taken as meaning all the enactments of one Session of Parliament, each enactment being referred to as a Chapter of the Statute, because the royal assent was given to them collectively. However, "Act" has long since been used to refer to each enactment separately and, when old statutes have been given short titles by modern enactments, the title always used the word "Act".
As a further historical aside, may I recall one instance in our recent statute law in which the word "Statute"—and not "Act"—has been used in a Short Title, namely, the Statute of Limitations, 1957. The practical, if possibly pedantic, explanation is that the expression "statutes of limitation" has always been in common, as well as legal, currency.
Section 2 sets out limitations on the effect of the repeals. The section is a form common to statute law revision Acts and may possibly be thought to be excessively cautious, in view of the explicit terms of section 21 of the Interpretation Act, 1937, subsection (1) of which states:
(1) Where an Act of the Oireachtas repeals the whole or a portion of a previous statute, then unless the contrary intention appears, such repeal shall not——
(a) revive anything not in force or not existing immediately before such repeal takes effect, or
(b) affect the previous operation of the statute or portion of a statute so repealed or anything duly done or suffered thereunder, or
(c) affect any right, privilege, obligation, or liability acquired, accrued, or incurred under the stattute or portion of a statute so repealed, or
(d) affect any penalty, forfeiture, or punishment incurred in respect of any offence against or contravention of the statute or portion of a statute so repealed which was committed before such repeal, or
(e) prejudice or affect any legal proceedings, civil or criminal, pending at the time of such repeal in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, offence, or contravention as aforesaid.
Nonetheless, the section is a useful reminder of some important safeguards, notably that existing rules of law and equity and established practices and procedures, which may have derived from, or been confirmed by, any repealed enactment are not affected by the repeal.
Part I of the Schedule is the result of a further revision of the pre-Union Irish Statutes which, as I have said, were the subject of the Statute Law Revision Act of 1962. This was made necessary by the proposed repeal of pre-Union English statutes which were ordered to be observed in Ireland by royal writ or ordinance, that is, orders of the King in Council, or afterwards applied to Ireland by a statute of an Irish Parliament, such as Poynings' Act, 1495. Where, therefore, an English statute is listed for repeal in Part II of the Schedule, its "Irish" counterpart is listed in Part I.
The supposedly exhaustive Irish Statutes at Large (1310 to 1800) published by authority in 20 volumes omits all pre-1310 writs and ordinances and a considerable amount of post-1310 legislation as well. Recourse has therefore been had to the Irish Record Office Series of Early Irish Statutes published in four volumes, the first three edited by Henry Berry and the fourth by James Morrissey in 1939. A footnote at the bottom of the first page of the Schedule gives the references.
Part III of the Schedule deals with statutes extended to Ireland by Irish statutes after the comprehensive Poynings' Act, 1495. Those still enforceable are the Maintenance and Champerty Act, 1634, which relates to the illegal involvement in other persons' litigation for the sake of monetary gain and similar abuses, and Yelverton's Act, 1781, which applied a number of English statutes of which only those relating to the calendar now remain.
The only statute in this group which calls for mention is the Act of Union. This Act was passed by both the Irish and the British Parliaments, although I am informed that only the British version was signed by the Crown. Be that as it may, the Irish version was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1962. The present Bill finally strikes the British version from the statute roll of this state. I trust that nobody—here or in any other place—will misunderstand our purpose: it is merely to expunge dead wood from the Statute Book.
Part IV of the Bill deals with British statutes since the Union which applied to Ireland. A word of explanation may be helpful in regard to one class of those statutes: namely, those concerned with the former United Kingdom Parliament. The Electoral Act, 1963, repealed most of the statutes relating to that parliament, although on a strict view it should be said that few of them applied to the Oireachtas of 1922 or the present Oireachtas established by the Constitution of 1937. They could not apply except by express adaptation, since the Oireachtas was in each case, a new institution. However, by way of abundance of caution most of them were repealed, and for consistency others—relating in the main to eligibility of holders of certain offices for membership of the House of Commons—are now proposed for repeal. They were all recommended for repeal by the Final Report of the Joint Committee on the Electoral Law, 12 July 1961.
Deputies will, I feel sure, agree that this Bill, being a purely technical measure, is entirely non-controversial, though, as I hope I have indicated, a highly desirable piece of proposed legislation. It is as such that I commend it to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.