Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Ceisteanna (296, 313, 321)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

296. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Finance the progress being made in ensuring that persons can once again access a primary medical certificate; and if his attention has been drawn to the impact that this is having on the mobility and independence for those awaiting such certificates for cars. [35397/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

313. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 17 September 2020, the policy or legislative changes he plans to make to the Disabled Drivers Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 and the related primary medical certificates following the Supreme Court ruling of 18 June 2020. [34831/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

321. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance when new legislation will be ready to be published to enable new primary medical certificates to issue for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concession) scheme in view of the Supreme Court Judgement of 18 June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35143/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296, 313 and 321 together.

The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain organisations. In order to qualify for relief an organisation must be entered in the register of charitable organisations under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2009, be engaged in the transport of disabled persons and whose purpose is to provide services to persons with disabilities.

In order to qualify for relief the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC) issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate (BMC) issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other criteria apply in relation to the vehicle and its use, including that the vehicle must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

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 18th 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 Deputies 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. I am currently giving consideration to policy and legislative proposals set out by my officials and will seek to progress this issue in the coming weeks.

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 such circumstances, it is not proposed to continue with PMC assessments until 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.

My officials were in contact with the Medical Board of Appeal and with officials in the Department of Health and will continue to liaise with them, as required, going forward. I have also written to the Minister for Health to request that there are no further PMC assessments until a sound legal basis for such assessments is re-established.

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 can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-commence based on a firm legal basis.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the Scheme itself is still operating. All persons or charitable organisations that can currently access the Scheme will continue to be able to do so and make claims for tax reliefs and the fuel grant in the normal manner.