I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 to 17, inclusive, together.
Substantial progress has been made by the statute law revision unit on a programme of consolidation and revision of statute law. This work has been carried out in consultation with all Departments, offices and the better regulation unit in my Department. It has included the drafting of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 and the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003, together with a number of other Bills and Acts involving consolidation and law reform measures, such as the Industrial Designs Act 2001 and the Water Services Bill 2003. Other Bills which are being worked on include a consolidation of company law, a codification of liquor licensing law and a consolidation and reform of the law relating to archaeological objects and national monuments.
The statute law revision unit has been involved with my Department in work that has led to the publication of the White Paper, Regulating Better, and before that the OECD report, Regulatory Reform in Ireland. As a result, in 2003, the statute law revision unit undertook an audit of all pre-1922 legislation to identify legislation which is no longer useful and therefore suitable for repeal. The audit also looked at the statutes which remain with a view to re-enacting them while removing any anomalies in the process. The results of that audit will be the subject of consultation with Departments, offices and interested parties. As a result, the statute law revision unit is now in the process of drafting a Statute Law Revision Bill which identifies some 100 statutes to be repealed, subject to these consultations taking place, and a further 400 statutes that need further consideration as candidates for repeal and re-enactment, consolidation, restatement or other action.
This is the first step in an ongoing drive to streamline and simplify Ireland's statute book. This exercise, in reducing the size of the statute book and bringing greater clarity to its contents, will make it easier for people to understand where they stand under the law. I am informed that drafting of legislation has not been subcontracted out by the office of the Attorney General to outside bodies or commercial firms.
The Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002 now makes it possible for the Attorney General to restate the law from related statutes and statutory instruments in one document. Because there is no change to the existing law, this can be done without having to prepare new Bills which would need to be debated in this House. This type of consolidation helps to make the statute book easier to use and understand. Two officers have been appointed by the Attorney General to perform functions under the Act. A programme of statute law restatement has been drawn up which gives priority to particular groups of connected statutes where restatement would improve the coherence of the law, for example, the Sale of Goods Act restatement.
The process of preparing restatements is extremely labour and time intensive and I understand the statute law revision unit is considering a number of policy options to improve the productivity of the process. Every effort will be made to restate as many groups of Acts as possible but for this year the priority of the unit will be to complete its work on pre-1922 legislation.