Statute Law Revision Bill 2007: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

A description of one of the Acts being repealed refers to the "English not to stir up war". I am not sure, in view of Prime Minister Tony Blair's activities, whether we are wise in repealing such legislation. This Bill is not the stuff of high politics or high conflict, but it is an education and privilege to be involved in the debate. We could go on forever entertaining each other with the peculiarities of the legislation but we will not do so.

I wish the Minister of State well in bringing the Bill through the Oireachtas. I ask him to respond specifically on the issue of offensive language, including words such as "imbeciles" and "lunatics". We must deal with such language once and for all through one or more Bills. No legislation should remain on the Statute Book that uses such language.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and Members for the courtesy they have shown in this debate and for their genuine interest in this Bill. It is always a pleasure to come to this House. I will do my best to respond to some of the Members' specific queries but I cannot deal with all of them. I give a commitment, however, to respond before Committee Stage with relevant information, summaries of Acts and so on in regard to any queries Members may have. This type of debate provokes further interest and research, and I would like us all to be as well prepared as possible on Committee Stage. One Member asked why explanations were not given for all the Acts. If Members contact my office, I will ensure as much information as possible is made available to them.

I thank Senator Brian Hayes for his comments. He asked about the review of post-1922 legislation. The Office of the Attorney General has prepared a database of post-Independence legislation and it is hoped to commence preparation of a new Bill dealing with that in the coming months. As part of the Government's better regulation programme, as set out in the 2004 White Paper, all Departments are working to identify and advance initiatives to reform, consolidate and codify key areas of legislation. As Senator Hayes noted, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is advancing work on criminal justice. The Department of Finance is considering a major consolidation of financial law, while the Revenue Commissioners have consolidated much of the legislation under their area of remit and are currently considering a significant initiative to reform customs legislation.

Senator O'Rourke, as usual, provided some interesting observations and expressed her desire that we continue this work. I thank her for paying tribute to our research team. She took us for an interesting journey through Kinnegad and Athlone. I hope she will get credit for all the work she has done down through the years.

Senator Henry spoke about the process of updating and simplifying legislation. The Interpretation Act 2005 updates and simplifies the interpretation of statutes in a way that allows for legislation that uses more accessible language. In response to Senator Norris's query, the Office of the Attorney General recently commenced a process of classifying the white list into various subject matters. This will provide a blueprint for future law reform measures.

Senator Norris also asked about how the programme of legislative reform will be continued. As part of the better regulation programme, the Government is committed to ensuring the Statute Book is up-to-date, modern and accessible to all citizens. As such, work will continue in researching, removing and, where necessary, repealing any more recent Acts, as appropriate. Work will also continue to modernise and reform the post-1922 legislation.

Reference was made to the Protection of Animals Act. I advise Members that this legislation is not suitable for repeal as it is still in use. Section 1(1), as amended, provides the current legislative definition of cruelty to animals, an important issue for all of us.

Senator Mansergh asked about the Whiteboy Act. Taking the view that much work has been done and much remains to be done, this is a good example of an Act in respect of which there is work to be done. I understand it may still be relevant to the laws on riots and tumultuous risings. I will convey Senator Mansergh's views to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is currently examining this area for the purposes of undertaking a project to codify the criminal law. Members will appreciate there is so much work involved that it is virtually impossible to go into all the detail that is necessary. We all agree that progress has been made and that significant work remains ahead of us.

Senator Lydon asked why the Acts in Schedule 1 are being retained on Committee Stage. Some are old but still relevant. An interesting example of this is the Marriage Act 1537, to which reference was made in the High Court last November.

That case related to a woman who wanted to marry her brother-in-law.

Senator Ryan mentioned Brehon law. This was an oral tradition rather than a statute law. After the Norman-English introduced statute law to Ireland, the Brehon Law was suppressed during the 17th century and no such laws survived in the legal system.

I thank Members for participating in this short debate. More time is required for debates of this nature. I remind them to let me know if they have queries on any particular Acts. There were many queries to which I cannot respond because of time restraints.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge, as Members have done, the work of the team of officials in the Office of the Attorney General who engaged in detailed and considerable research to identify both the statutes for retention and those for repeal. It was a complex task to identify these Acts and all of us, including myself, would like to be involved in this fascinating process. Much work remains to be done. I thank the Cathaoirleach for giving me the opportunity to respond to Members. I also thank Members for giving this Bill the attention it deserves and for their detailed and insightful comments.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 13 February 2007.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.