The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the following medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC:
- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;
- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;
- be without both hands or without both arms;
- be without one or both legs;
- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;
- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.
A Supreme Court decision of 18 June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgement found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.
The Deputy will appreciate that the complex legal and policy issues raised by the Supreme Court decision will require careful consideration. In parallel to that consideration there is a need to examine how best the Scheme can target resources to those persons who most need them. My officials are currently examining the judgement, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, and will bring forward any policy and/or legislative proposals, as necessary, for my consideration in due course.
In the interim, on foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In light of this, I wrote to the Minister for Health to request a temporary cessation of PMC assessments until such times as a revised basis for such assessments is established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.
While it is regrettable that PMC assessments are currently not taking place and I acknowledge that this will result in a growing waiting list, I anticipate that the work that is currently ongoing in relation to this matter will provide a proper basis for me to make a decision on the best pathway forward and to address the current legal uncertainty surrounding the Scheme. I can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.