I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 52 together.
As I indicated in a reply to the House on 30 September 1998, a Partnership 2000 Working Group on Basic Income has been set up under the aegis of my Department. The group has commissioned a study which is being carried out in two phases. The overall purpose of the study is to consider and evaluate the economic, social, budgetary and administrative impact of the introduction of a basic income system. Draft reports from the consultants on the first phase of the study, which examines the costs and distribution analysis of a basic income, were received, as expected, at the end of October.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the methodologies involved in costing and analysing the distributional effects of a basic income are both complex and time consuming. The research team comprising the ESRI and Professor Charles Clark of St. John's University, New York, have been engaged in reconciling a number of issues which are fundamental to the conclusions. The Working Group on Basic Income has been providing information and assistance to the consultancy team in recent weeks in addressing costings, taxation and the other issues involved.
As a result, the first phase is being finalised, incorporating material now available in respect of the 1998 out-turn on relevant variables, and will be presented to a meeting of the working group in February. The second phase of the study, which will consider the dynamic effects of basic income, will then move ahead rapidly.
Progress on the study was reported to the social partners at their quarterly meeting yesterday.
The study and the report of the Partnership 2000 working group will enable the Government to examine the matter. It is intended that a Green Paper will be published, as outlined in An Action Programme for the Millennium.