To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection her views on the request by Irish Water for the use of individual PPS numbers; the reason this is required by Irish Water; the provisions her Department will make to ensure that such information once provided to Irish Water is secure and used correctly; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Martin Heydon.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 25th September, 2014.


Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D.):

The Personal Public Service (PPS) number is a unique identifier for use in any transaction a person may have with specified public bodies or persons authorised by those bodies to act on their behalf. The legal basis of the PPS number is set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) and this legislation sets out the circumstances in which the PPS number can be used. It also specifically covers the fact that the PPS number can only be used by certain specified bodies and only for the purposes of public service transactions.

Irish Water, a registered subsidiary company of Bord Gáis Éireann, was incorporated in July 2013, as a semi-state company under the Water Services Act 2013 to bring the water and wastewater services of the 34 Local Authorities together under one national service provider. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2014 included an amendment to include Irish Water as a specified body in Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended). This Legislation was enacted on the 17th of July 2014 and it allows Irish Water to request and use the PPS numbers from customers.

As part of is functions, Irish Water will be transacting with members of the public and will need to share or confirm data and information in certain cases. The PPS number is being collected by Irish Water for the purpose of validating the identity of customers in order to ensure the proper application of both household and children’s water services allowances for which customers may be eligible.

The actual arrangements for any required data exchange and validation with the Department are under consideration. Any such arrangements will be subject to compliance with all relevant legislation, including the provisions of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) and the Data Protection Acts. For its part, Irish Water is subject to the onus on public bodies to comply with relevant legislation in terms of the collection, storage and use of all sensitive data including the PPS number.

Irish Water has confirmed to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government that the data protection notice it has in place is fully compliant with Data Protection requirements and that it is in regular contact with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to ensure this is the case.