Absolutely nobody had any intention to mislead the Dáil, to omit anything intentionally or to try to sneak anything in with this legislation, as has been suggested before. The Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 was enacted on 6 August and constitutes the Government response to the new challenges posed to our courts and legal systems by the current pandemic. The Act also goes beyond the pandemic, as we outlined at the time, and will make many of our legal processes more efficient and effective in the future.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Act covers a wide range of issues in respect of both our civil and criminal legal systems, including the reform of the law concerning coroners; the introduction of a statutory basis for our courts to conduct remote hearings; the admissibility of business records as evidence in civil proceedings, which the Deputy has referred to; the lodgement of documents with the courts by electronic means, known as e-filing; the lodgement of statements of truth with the courts by electronic means; provision for the wider use of video links between persons in custody and the courts; enhancing and widening the existing provisions on giving evidence through video link; providing for appeals in criminal proceedings to take place via remote hearings; removing the existing requirement to transport prisoners between prisons; and providing for the remote meetings of State bodies. A significant amount of work went into this legislation. It will also make it easier for the Courts Service to alter operating hours.
I assume the Deputy means to refer to Part 3, Chapter 3 of the Act entitled, Business records and other documents in civil proceedings, which was the focus of much debate at the time, rather than section 3 of the Act, which is a standard provision. The position is that there was no decision to exclude Part 3, Chapter 3 of the Act from pre-legislative scrutiny. I am very clear on that. The Deputy is right that the general scheme of the Bill, as approved by Cabinet at its meeting on 13 July, did not include Part 3, Chapter 3. On 14 July, I sought a waiver for the requirement of pre-legislative scrutiny under Standing Order 173 for the Bill, as it was primarily a Covid-19 related measure and needed to be progressed quickly. I sought the waiver, in good faith, on the basis of the general scheme approved by Cabinet.
In bringing this proposal to Cabinet, I indicated the potential for inclusion in the Bill of additional measures to support the holding of criminal and civil trials under Covid-19 restraints and these were subsequently included in the Bill, as approved by Government on 20 July. The legislation we introduced last week went through in a similar fashion and I thank Deputies for their support in that. Changes were made to the initial draft of that Bill when it was eventually published. This is the norm and it often happens. There was no attempt at concealment.