Embargo: midnight THURSDAY 13TH JANUARY 2011
Law Reform Commission publishes Report on Legislation Directory and Consultation Paper on Classified List of Legislation in Ireland
Report sets out how the legislation directory keeps track of all changes to Acts of the Oireachtas; describes planned enhancements to provide additional information; report also contains list of over 100 acts in new programme of statute law restatement (administrative consolidation)
Consultation paper proposes that a complete list of all existing legislation in Ireland be classified under 36 subject-matter headings and includes a draft classified list of over 2,000 acts
Friday 14th January 2011: The Law Reform Commission has published a Report on the Legislation Directory and a Consultation Paper on a Classified List of Legislation in Ireland. These publications arise from the Commission’s general statutory mandate under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 to keep the law under review. They also reflect the need to ensure greater accessibility to legislation in Ireland in the wider context of the debate on regulatory reform, which was emphasised in the November 2010 OECD Report on Regulatory Reform in Ireland, available at www.betterregulation.ie.
Report on the Legislation Directory: main developments
The Legislation Directory is an on-line searchable guide to legislative changes, hosted by the Office of the Attorney General on the electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB), www.irishstatutebook.ie. In 2007, the Attorney General transferred functional responsibility for the maintenance of the Legislation Directory (previously called the Chronological Tables of the Statutes) to the Commission.
The Report on the Legislation Directory describes how the Commission has developed the format, content and ongoing maintenance of the Legislation Directory, and what further enhancements are in train. The main developments since the Commission took responsibility for the Legislation Directory are:
- In 2010, the Commission completed the backlog of updating the Legislation Directory for over 4 years from January 2006 to April 2010 and these updates were placed on-line on the eISB. This allows members of the public, businesses, lawyers and public bodies to track to April 2010 all changes to Acts of the Oireachtas.
- The Commission developed an XML authoring tool for the Legislation Directory, based on international eLegislation standards.
- Using the XML authoring tool, the Commission is in a position to update the Legislation Directory on a regular basis, subject to the availability of the XML version of Acts and Statutory Instruments.
- The Commission has begun to include in the Legislation Directory pre-1922 amendments to pre-1922 (pre-Independence) Acts that remain in force. Until now, only amendments made after 1922 to pre-1922 Acts were tracked in the Legislation Directory. The Commission has tracked amendments to Acts from 1900 onwards. For example, all changes made pre-1922 and post-1922 to the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 (which is applied in the District Court on a regular basis) are now available on the Legislation Directory.
- The Commission has also begun to develop a Legislation Directory of Statutory Instruments (including Ministerial Regulations), which would allow tracking of amendments made to these important statutory materials. Each year, about 40 Acts are passed by the Oireachtas, and over 600 Statutory Instruments are made.
Second Programme of Statute Law Restatement 2011-2012
The Report on the Legislation Directory also contains the list of over 100 Acts in the Commission’s Second Programme of Statute Law Restatement 2011-2012. Statute Law Restatement is the administrative consolidation of an Act and its subsequent amendments. For example, a Restatement of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 would include the up-to-date text of the 1997 Act, as amended. Since 1997, the Freedom of Information Act 1997 has been amended by 40 Acts.
In 2006, the Government (at the request of the Attorney General) transferred functional responsibility for the development of programmes of Statute Law Restatement to the Commission. Under the Commission’s First Programme of Statute Law Restatement, the Commission prepared or is completing 74 Restatements, many of which are available on the Commission’s website as pre-certified restatements, pending certification by the Attorney General. After certification, under the Statute Law (Restatement) Act 2002, they will be prima facie evidence of the law stated in them. These pre-certified Restatements on the Commission’s website include the following:
- Freedom of Information Act 1997 (in other words, the up-to-date version of the 1997 Act, as amended by 40 Acts since 1997)
- Data Protection Act 1988 (as amended by 30 Acts)
- Criminal Procedure Act 1967 (as amended by over 70 Acts)
- Firearms Act 1925 (as amended by over 10 Acts), and 8 other Firearms Acts
- Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 (as amended by over 10 Acts)
The Commission’s Second Programme of Statute Law Restatement 2011-2012 will deal with over 100 Acts, grouped under 15 subject headings, including:
- Criminal Law (9 Acts)
- Employment Law (35 Acts)
- Environmental and Planning Law (13 Acts)
- Family Law, including Children (30 Acts)
- Mental Health Law (4 Acts).
Consultation Paper on a Classified List of Legislation in Ireland
The Consultation Paper on a Classified List of Legislation in Ireland arises from the Commission’s participation in the Department of the Taoiseach’s eLegislation Group. The eLegislation Group invited the Commission to develop a draft classified list of Acts of the Oireachtas in order to identify accurately all Acts enacted by the Oireachtas that remain extant (that is, not repealed). Such a classified list would identify related groups of Acts of the Oireachtas (for example, all those dealing with business regulation, employment law or taxation) and assist accessibility for all those affected by the law, whether individuals, businesses or State bodies. The development of the classified list complements the Commission’s work on the Legislation Directory and Statute Law Restatement.
The Consultation Paper points out that classified lists of legislation have been developed in other countries such as the United States. The federal United States Code (USC) contains all the legislation of the US Congress under 50 subject headings, called Titles. For example, Title 11 of the USC deals with Bankruptcy. Similar codes have been developed in the 50 US states, and also in many EU States.
The Consultation Paper contains a list of over 2,000 Acts that remain in force, which the Commission has been classified under 36 subject headings. The headings are based on:
- the headings (Titles) used in the federal United States Code (USC) and the US state Legislative Code of Maryland,
- some well-known headings, such as Business Regulation, Criminal Law, Employment Law and Taxation,
- the areas of responsibility of relevant Government Departments and
- headings that are unique to Ireland, such as heading 21, Irish Language and Gaeltacht.