Limerick East): This Bill, which is the result of much research into the entire surviving body of statute law until 1922, continues the process of eliminating from the Statute Book enactments which have become obsolete, irrelevant or unnecessary. The repeal of archaic enactments is not a mere academic exercise. The object of these statute law revision measures is to facilitate the compilation of an up-to-date index of statutes in force in the State and, eventually, the production of a new set of revised statutes. This will reduce the labours of all who have occasion to consult the law — whether as legal practitioners, administrators, businessmen or private citizens. However, I should like to make it clear that further statute law revision measures, in addition to the Bill before the House at present, will be needed before it will be possible to complete this process.
The Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962 revised 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. It is, however, in the main concerned with the repeal of unnecessary English and British statutes. The Bill proposes to repeal over 500 enactments covering a period of 685 years.
At this stage, I think I should explain the use of the terms "English" and "British" as applied to statute law. The terms have 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 this 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.
Mention of the language in the older statutes may be of interest. From the time of the early writs and ordinances, going back to the time of John, Lord of Ireland, 1199 to 1216, Latin was the language invariably used. It gave way to Norman-French, though the person before whom the Parliament was held and the places of assembly were always referred to in Latin, "Coram" and "apud", respectively, being the descriptions used.
As late as the Parliament of Henry VII (1493), Norman-French continued to be the language employed. The first occasion on which the Statutes of Ireland were written down in the English language was in the year of Poynings' Parliament (1495). Thereafter, the use of the printing press having been introduced, English was the sole language employed.
Perhaps I might also draw attention to the italicised notes in the second column of the Schedule. These notes, 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.
May I, at this point, assure any Senator 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 the Senator a full explanation, or supply the Senator with such information as the Senator may require?
I should like to take this opportunity to correct a slip in the explanatory memorandum. The reference in page 3 to "Edward" Curtis should be to "Edmund" Curtis, who for nearly 30 years, 1914-1943, was a Professor of Modern History in the University of Dublin and one of Ireland's most distinguished historians. His works on Irish history were consulted extensively by the Statute Law Reform and Consolidation Office in preparing this Bill and I think it is due to his memory that I should put the record straight by giving him his proper name.
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 referred to 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".
Section 2 sets out limitations on the effect of repeals. The section is a form common to statute law revision Acts and serves as a useful reminder of some important safeguards — which are spelt out more explicitly in subsection (1) of section 21 of the Interpretation Act, 1937 — 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 mentioned, 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.
Part I contains a few enactments passed by the Irish Parliament, which were not concerned with English Acts. In due course a further fairly extensive Revision Act will be required to deal with the enactments of the Parliaments of Ireland prior to Poynings' Parliament of 1495.
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 II deals with enactments relayed to Ireland by Poynings' Parliament and for the first time a drastic pruning has been effected. For the future, only a very small portion of the extensive legislation of the Parliament of England then applied remains.
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, Wentworth's Act, 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. The Irish version was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act of 1962 and under the present Bill the British version also will be removed from the statute roll of this State.
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. These were all recommended for repeal in the Final Report of the Joint Committee on the Electoral Law, 12 July 1961.
I feel sure that Senators will 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.