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Poverty Impact Assessments

Stephen Donnelly (ind, Wicklow) asked a number of ministers about how the system of Poverty Impact Assessments (PIA) applied to legislation.  Ministers explained that PIAs were integrated into the system of Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) which had been required since 2005 under European regulations.

  • The Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin, told him that four of the five Bills completed by his department were exempt from the requirement (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2012, 521-2).   It was not compulsory to apply RIA to the Finance Bill, security or emergency legislation;
  • The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton told him that PIAs were integrated into the RIA process (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2012, 538-9).  RIAs are not ordinarily undertaken on the package of measures associated with budget day, so an RIA was not considered necessary for the Social welfare Acts.  A Poverty Impact Assessment of social welfare budget measures would, on its own, be unbalanced.
  • The Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Phil Hogan told him that RIAs had been published on the Dormant accounts (amendment) Bill, the Water services (amendment) Bill and the Electoral (amendment) Bill. Consideration of the potential impact on poverty was normally given at an early stage of the policy development process and practical approaches to address and minimize such potential impacts were normally then taken in the legislation itself or the scheme established thereby (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2012, 550). 
  • The Minister for Justice & Equality, Alan Shatter, told him that PIA was included through the RIA, with responsibility at principal officer level (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2012, 557-8).  His department had published RIAs on six Bills, no PIAs and there were two Bills exempt from both;
  • The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, told him that of the five completed Bills in his department, four did not require a PIA.  In the case of the Road Transport Bill, 2011, the RIA considered socially excluded and vulnerable groups.  PIAs were integrated with the RIA process and were the responsibility of principal officers (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2012, 574).
  • The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, told him that PIAs were integrated into the RIA process (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11th July 2011, 509).  He listed the legislation presented by his department so far, but no PIAs were required or carried out.
  • The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, told him that his department had completed three Bills.  The Central Treasury Funds (Commission for Energy Regulation) had a full RIA; the Energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill was published, which took account of socially excluded or vulnerable groups; while the Electricity regulation (carbon levy)(amendment) Bill was emergency legislation (Dail Eireann, Debates, 11h July 2012, 542-3.
  • The Taoiseach told him that his department had not initiated any legislation but that it would undertake RIAs and PIAs according to the guidelines if required (Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th July 2012, 131).

[Editor’s note:  Although this appears to be quite a technical discussion, it is an important one in policy on poverty.  Poverty Impact Assessments were introduced by the Combat Poverty Agency as a means of poverty-proofing legislation and this is the first set of questions to test their practical impact.  These answers identified the small number of Bills that have been so proofed and the significant range of exemptions]. 

> Gender impact of budgets: Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th July 2012, 1029-1030.