141. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice if consideration will be given to an independent review of the processes of the Data Protection Commission as called for by an organisation (details supplied). [27843/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018, the Data Protection Commission is independent in the performance of its tasks and the exercise of its powers.
As the Deputy will appreciate this means it does not report to me or my Department, nor has my Department any oversight or enforcement powers in relation to the Commission. The Commission operates under its own Vote, since January 2020, with its own accounting officer and lays its reports and accounts directly before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
In upholding the independence of bodies under my aegis, I must always ensure that I do not seek information, including in response to parliamentary questions, which would exceed my remit and encroach upon the legal independence of those bodies.
I understand that the Deputy has already engaged directly with the Data Protection Commissioner on the subject of an independent review at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Justice on 27 April last.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government commits to ‘recognise the domestic and international importance of data protection in Ireland’ and states that the Government ‘will ensure that Ireland delivers on its responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulation’.
The Government is very conscious of the commitment to deliver effective data protection regulation and protection of the data privacy rights of EU citizens, which is critical to the development and growth of our digital economy.
There has been a year-on-year increase in funding for the Commission over the last four budgetary years. In Budget 2021, the funding for the Commission was increased more than five-fold from its 2015 allocation of €3.647m to €19.1m, in line with its increased functions.
My Department continues to monitor the impact of the implementation of GDPR; the impact of any possible future regulatory changes across Europe as well as any changes within industry, in conjunction with the Data Protection Commission, to ensure that the Commission continues to have the resources required to fulfil its important, statutory obligations.
That consideration will determine whether an increase in membership of the Commission is considered necessary at some future stage. In that event, the matter will be brought to Government.