Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (614)

Peadar Tóibín


614. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason the provision in the Water Services Act 2014 to cease the collection of PPSN numbers was not commenced until four years after the Act became law; the reason Irish Water is legally entitled to collected PPSN numbers from persons for four years after the Act's enactment; and the further reason it took Irish Water four years to delete the data in view of the fact it took Irish Water eight weeks to collect the numbers. [39862/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

In July 2013, Irish Water was incorporated as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013.  The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2014 included a provision which added Irish Water to the list of specified bodies to allow it to use PPS Numbers for the purposes of carrying out transactions with members of the public. 

The intention was that the PPS Number would serve as a unique identifier in the case of individual customers and this would assist the company in determining whether that person was eligible for an allowance in respect of their water charge.

However, the subsequent introduction of the water conservation grant, announced in November 2014 and administered by my Department, meant that Irish Water no longer required the PPS Numbers of customers.

Instead, as part of the application for the water conservation grant, applicants provided certain information, including their PPS Number and payment method details, to my Department.  This information was collected by my Department from August 2015 to November 2015. It is important to point out that, at no stage, was any data that was collected by my Department transferred to Irish Water.

The provisions contained in section 11 of the Water Services Act 2014 to remove the company from the list of specified bodies required a Commencement Order to be made by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In order to comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Acts, Irish Water was required to delete PPS Number data collected during their customer registration process.  A protocol was developed in consultation with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to address this data deletion exercise.

The section 11 Commencement Order could not be signed until that process was complete and Irish Water had formally confirmed that all PPS Numbers had been erased from their systems.

On 21st December 2017, the order to commence section 11 of the Water Services Act 2014 with effect from 01 January 2018, was signed.

I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.