Report recommends impact analysis of all major legislation and regulations

Harry McGee, Political Editor

The Department of an Taoiseach's report on regulatory impact analysis (RIA) recommended that this system should be applied to all major Acts and regulations passed by the Dáil.

RIA assesses the likely effects and costs of such legislation and analyses if it will have the desired impact.

In recent years, the Government has run into political difficulties because it grossly under-estimated costs of new legislation or the impact regulations would have on business and society.

Two measures in particular the introduction of medical cards for over-70s and the decision to allow Irish emigrants the right to claim social insurance payments made in Ireland during the 1950 and 1960s ended up costing multiples of their estimated costs.

Launching the report yesterday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said: "It helps identify the side effects and any hidden costs associated with regulation.

"RIA clarifies the desired outcomes of the proposed regulatory change. It also provides for consultation with stakeholders to ensure that their views and interests are understood."

Studying the impact of legislation is well-established internationally but up until now has been done on an informal basis in Ireland.

The report group also recommend that RIA be used to analyse draft EU directives, to assess the cost and implications of such proposals for Ireland.

Four Government departments participated in a pilot project using RIA from June 2003.

RIA analysis was carried out on a number of proposed laws and regulations including the Medical Practitioners Bill, Coroners Bill, Export Control Bill, Betting Duty Regulations and the draft EU Groundwater Directive. According to the report, the pilot projects "demonstrated many of the ascribed benefits of RIA."

The report favours a two-phase approach to RIA in Ireland.

The first is a screening RIA which will be used for all primary legislation, as well as some emergency, criminal or security legislation.

If the outcome of that suggests significant cost or impact, a second-phase full RIA is conducted.

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