Statute Law Revision Programme

What is the pre-1922 Statute Law Revision Programme?

When the State was founded, it inherited tens of thousands of pre-1922 legislation, both Acts and Statutory Instruments. Much of this law was obsolete but remained officially in force, and the Statute Law Revision Programme (SLRP) was initiated to provide clarity for users of statute law. Between 2005 and 2016, the SLRP has been responsible for the research and drafting of 6 comprehensive Statute Law Revision Acts, which were welcomed as part the State’s responsibility to repeal and revoke this obsolete legislation. This has resulted in the repeal of the vast majority of the pre-1922 Acts, and has left us with a definitive list (now) of just over 1,000 pre-1922 Acts that have been retained in force. In relation to Statutory Instruments, the SLRP examined pre-1922 instruments up to and including 1820. The Statute Law Revision Act 2015 formally revoked many thousands of these and retained in force just 43 that remain relevant.

The Law Reform Commission, with the support of the Office of the Attorney General, has now assumed responsibility for the SLRP. It intends to complete the revision of all pre-1922 statutory instruments by 2022, to coincide with the centenary of the State. The current project picks up from the 1821 timeline, and involves the examination of thousands more instruments covering the period from 1 January 1821 right through to 1922. Completing the pre-1922 SLRP will provide a level of clarity for secondary legislation similar to that already achieved for primary legislation in previous Statute Law Revision Acts.

The SLRP has already delivered a definitive list of pre-1922 Acts that remain in force, nearly all of which are available online on the electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). The Commission’s goal is that all secondary legislation identified in the remaining stages of the SLRP that are suitable to be retained in force should be digitised, and made available to the eISB. The State will then have a complete list of all in-force legislation, both primary and secondary, in Ireland, and it will be accessible online. This will reinforce the status of the eISB as the principal online repository of legislation in the State.

Work of the Commission on the SLRP

The SLRP has been amalgamated into the Commission’s Access to Legislation work, as they share the same important overall aim: to make legislation more accessible for all. The Commission has begun identifying and sourcing the relevant material, building on the established approach that applied to the earlier SLRP work. These sources include the Dublin Gazette and London Gazette, the annual volumes of Statutory Rules and Orders (SROs) and revised versions of SROs (published by authority) as well as Volume 4 of Steele’s Bibliography of Proclamations (1913 edition).

At present, the Commission considers that two Statute Law Revision Bills may be required. The first will address the instruments from 1821 to 1893, and the second will deal with those from 1894 to 1922 (when such instruments were published on a more structured basis). The Commission will prepare the Schemes/Heads of those Bills, which will include a “White List” Schedule that will contain the instruments that are being retained in force, and a separate Schedule of repealed/revoked statutory material. Retained statutory material that does not already have a short title or citation will be given one.

In terms of methodology, the Commission will follow the approach previously used for the SLRP. This will involve wide consultation (consistent with the Commission’s established approach to its law reform projects and its Access to Legislation work) with Government Departments, online public consultation, and consultation with any other interested parties.

The SLRP and Better Regulation

Completion of the project will deliver the following key policy-related outcomes:

eGovernment and digital first: consistently with eGovernment policy and the “digital first” objectives of Our Public Service 2020, the project brings together within the Commission two complementary ICT-related work streams on legislation and will complete the process of having a definitive list of all retained pre-1922 legislation and making it available online on the eISB;
Rule of law: in a State that adheres to the rule of law principle, citizens and businesses should know the law that regulates them, and the project will identify definitively what pre-1922 legislation is and is not in force;
Compliance costs: having a definitive list of retained legislation and making it available online assists in reducing compliance costs for businesses, and for public servants and regulatory bodies, who spend time and money finding the up-to-date picture of legislation, and is consistent with the Government’s Policy Statement Regulating for a Better Future (Department of the Taoiseach, 2013);
Consolidation of legislation: having a definitive list of legislation also facilitates future proposals to repeal, re-enact (where necessary with amendments) and consolidate the State’s legislative stock, consistent with the analysis in the OECD’s 2010 Better Regulation in Europe: Ireland.