Wednesday, 18 December 2002
Seanad Eireann Debate
An Cathaoirleach: This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 103, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question “That the Bill be received for final consideration”, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. The only matters, therefore, which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil. For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. Senators may speak only once on Report Stage.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Ms Hanafin): Tá áthas orm bheith ar ais sa Teach. Over 12 months ago I had the pleasure of bringing this Bill before the Seanad. Since then some amendments have been made by the Dáil. All of the amendments are of a technical nature and none made any material alteration to the substance of the Bill as passed by this House. The amendments of substance were recommended and accepted in this House when the Bill first went through.
Section 2 was amended to make provision for the restatement of Acts that have not been amended to be included in a restatement. For example, the Statute of Limitations Act, 1957, was amended by the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000. The 2000 Act was not amended. In order to allow it to be restated the words “that has been amended” were deleted from the Bill. A further amendment was made to this section in order to put beyond doubt the power to include statutory instruments in restatements. The amendment to the Long Title ensures it takes account of amendments to section 2.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are technical amendments to section 8 to ensure consistency with the terminology in section 2, which refers to a restatement being “certified” as opposed to “made” by the Attorney General. A further amendment was made to section 8 to put beyond doubt the period during which the restatement is to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. That period is clearly stated to be 21 days on which each House has sat after the copy is laid before it.
A small amendment was made to section 9 to clarify what is envisaged by the Government in relation to orders to be made under the Act. The proposal is that the Government may prescribe by order the form of restatements. An order will be made under this section requiring restatement to be, for example, presented in consecutively numbered paragraphs and to include the Attorney General's certification.
I commend to the House these technical changes, which will improve the Bill. We look forward to the publication of the restatements as they will be of great benefit, especially to practitioners and lawyers. It will also improve the coherence and accessibility of statute law.
Mr. B. Hayes: I have no difficulty with the amendments following the consideration of the Bill by the Dáil. They are technical and will improve the Bill. It is important that our statute law be presented to the public and practitioners in an efficient manner. A huge body of work in the Office of the Attorney General and across Departments is ongoing and I commend them for their efforts. Anything that streamlines the presentation and comprehension of law is welcome.
Dr. Mansergh: We support the amendments. The Bill contributes to what once would have been regarded as the philosopher's stone, the codification of law. There are the famous codes of Justinian and Napoleon, although I do not paint as bright a future for the Minister of State. When I told the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, that I was not an unmitigated admirer of Napoleon he looked puzzled, if not offended. The legislation will be useful for historians, practitioners and politicians, especially when they consider such measures as the consolidation of the planning or broadcasting legislation.
Mr. Ryan: We have no difficulty with the amendments. Members of the House frequently assert that because they are not lawyers they are unable to give full consideration to legislation of this kind. They should not make such statements because we are more than lawyers, we are law makers. We should not apologise to lawyers for our range of skills, which are deeper and more profound than theirs. I am glad we are helping them. I hope that some of the mystique of law will disappear with this process and with that some of the expense associated with it.
More people can grasp and understand the law than lawyers would have us believe. I am a professional and I generally support the view that all professions are a conspiracy against the laity. I am glad we are clarifying matters in this area and I welcome the amendments.
In the last Oireachtas one third of all Bills were initiated in the Seanad. It did a good job on them, reflected in the fact that very little legislation initiated in this House required serious amendment by the Dáil. It is a pity our role is sometimes not recognised.
Ms O'Rourke: I also welcome the Minister of State who came here at speed from the other House, which we appreciate. Yesterday the Seanad debated at length the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill, 2002. It was thoughtful and interesting. Members of the other House were annoyed that the Dáil did not have the same time to consider the Bill.
If amendments are considered here and there is good time for debate, especially between Stages, Ministers and Senators can reflect on the legislation. This can only improve it. These amendments simplify the Bill and make the legislation easier to comprehend. Any substantial amendments to the Bill were made in this House when it was presented over a year ago.
Ms Hanafin: I thank Senators for their courtesy and welcome, especially the personal welcome of Senator Hanafin. The Bill was substantially amended in this House. Over the past couple of years it has been my privilege to spend a considerable time in the Seanad debating important legislation. I do not know if my current role will facilitate that in the future but I look forward to any time I might spend here.
Ms Hanafin: When Senator Mansergh referred to the philosopher's stone I am glad he went on to mention Napoleon and not Harry Potter. I wish you, Sir, the best in your distinguished role and I thank the Seanad for its consideration of the Bill.
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