Under the heading Access to Legislation, the Commission is involved in three connected activities (Revised Acts, the Legislation Directory and the Classified List of In-Force Legislation) that are aimed at ensuring greater online accessibility of legislation. This derives from one of the Commission's statutory functions under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 to keep the law under review and to conduct research with a view to reforming the law, which includes the revision and consolidation of legislation. The Commission is also engaged in a project to support the consolidation or codification of legislation.
2.1 Revised Acts
In 2006, the Government requested the Commission, consistent with its statutory functions under the 1975 Act, to assume responsibility for the preparation of Revised Acts (at that time, Restatements). A Revised Act is an administrative consolidation of that Act-as-amended, and brings together in a single text all amendments and changes to an Act, making the law more accessible for all users. For example, the Bankruptcy Act 1988 and the Personal Insolvency Act 2012 have been amended many times since they were enacted, and it is therefore important to have available an up-to-date version that incorporates all amendments to them. The Commission currently publishes, and maintains up to date, over 340 Revised Acts on this website. For more information on Revised Acts, click here.
2.2 Legislation Directory: Amendments to Legislation and Other Effects
The Legislation Directory (previously called the Chronological Tables of the Statutes) is a publicly available database that documents amendments made to all Acts enacted since 1922; and to those pre-1922 Acts that remain in force in accordance with the Statute Law Revision Act 2007. The Commission has had functional responsibility for the development and maintenance of the Legislation Directory since 2007, since when it has added a number of enhancements, including commencement information and other legislative effects to Acts enacted since 2000; and a (partial) Legislation Directory that (currently) tracks amendments made to statutory instruments since 1987, with entries for earlier years being prepared. The Legislation Directory is hosted on the electronic Irish Statute Book, eISB, at www.irishstatutebook.ie where it now consists of an integrated link from the full text of each Act. For more information on the Legislation Directory click here.
2.3 Classified List of In-Force Legislation in Ireland
In 2010, the Commission developed a Classified List of In-Force Legislation in Ireland, which groups under 36 subject headings all Acts enacted by the Oireachtas since 1922 that remain in force (over 2,000 of the 3,000 enacted since 1922), together with over 100 of the most significant pre-1922 Acts that remain in force. The Classified List identifies related groups of Acts, for example, all those dealing with business regulation, criminal law, employment law, family law and taxation, which assists accessibility for all those affected by the law, whether individuals, businesses or State bodies. The Commission regularly publishes updates of the Classified List on this website. In 2016 the Commission published a companion draft Classified List of In-Force Statutory Instruments, using the same 36 headings in the Classified List of In-Force Acts. For more information on the Classified List, click here.
2.4 Consolidation/Codification/Simplification of Legislation
In 2014, the Commission began work on its project concerning the consolidation, codification and simplification of legislation (4th Programme of Law Reform, Project 11). This project examines how legislation is produced and published in order to support its availability in consolidated or codified form and builds on the Commission’s Access to Legislation work, above. The project examines the procedures, processes and standards for the enactment of codification Bills and the retention of codified Acts as they are amended over time. The Commission published an Issues Paper on this project (LRC IP 11-2016) Issues Paper on Accessibility, Consolidation and Online Publication of Legislation in December 2016. The Issues Paper discusses how legislation - in particular Acts of the Oireachtas - is currently made available publicly, and examines what additional steps can be made to make legislation in its up-to-date form more easily available, especially online. The IP points out that except for the 290 Revised Acts on the Commission's website, it is very difficult to trace the up-to-date legislation on many topics without spending significant amounts of time doing this. The Paper therefore addresses to what extent a number of areas, such as planned programmes of consolidation, and maximising technology in the online publication of legislation, could improve the accessibility of legislation in Ireland. The Paper discusses how other countries have addressed these problems, then identifies 5 key areas and asks related questions on which the Commission is seeking views, specifically:
- whether the 4 priniciples identified by the Commission (that legislation should be comprehensive, up-to-date, freely available and underpinned by defined legislative publishing standards) are sufficient for the purposes of this project
- what initiatives should be taken to procedure comprehensive law
- how to ensure that consolidated legislation is kept up to date when it is amended
- how to make the best use of online technology and
- the kind of underlying standard we need to make sure that any programme to make legislation available in its up to date form
2.5 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.
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