Revising the statute book is dusty but serious business

Title page of 'Statutes at Large, 1310' via TCD library websiteFurther to my three posts on the Statute Law Revision Act, 2007 (also here), I note that the second stage of the sibling Statute Law Revision Bill, 2009 was taken in the Dáil on Thursday. Friday’s Irish Times had a suitably colourful take on it: Bill to repeal statute laws dating back to Henry VIII.

In this process of tidying up the statute book, Ireland has been followed first by Westminster and then by Holyrood. In fact, it is a very important piece of legislation which will tidy up a statute book which still has more than 10,000 old Acts (3,182 pre-1751 Private Acts and 7,543 pre-1851 Local and Personal Acts) of which only 138 contain provisions of ongoing relevance. Apart from these 138 Acts specifically listed in Schedule 1 of the Bill, section 2 proposes the repeal of the other spent or obsolete Acts (1,351 are specifically listed in Schedule 2; the others will be implicitly repealed by their not being saved and referred to in Schedule 1 to the Bill). As Brian Hunt of Dublin solicitors firm Mason Hayes & Curran pointed out at an earlier stage in the process, this is difficult, technical, toilsome work with few visible results; but it is entirely necessary; and I’m delighted to see that it is progressing so effectively.

One of the Acts to be repealed is an Act of 1714 (1 Geo. 1 St. 2) c. 38P which is described in the Schedule as “Enabling the Prince of Wales to qualify himself in Great Britain for the legal enjoyment of the office of Chancellor of the University of Dublin” (an important, if now largely ceremonial, office currently held by Dr Mary Robinson). In 1716, George Augustus, Prince of Wales, took up the office, which he held until his coronation as King George II in 1727, before in turn passing it to his son, Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, in 1728. I suspect that enabling them to qualify themselves in Great Britain for the legal enjoyment of the office simply means that they could remain in London and did not have to be in Dublin to exercise the functions of the office. And I further suspect that this was important so that the office would not be occupied by the crown’s political opponents or enemies.