Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Assurance Company Prosecution.

40.

andMr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce the reason why a prosecution of the New Ireland Assurance Company did not take place within the time limit referred to in a reply of the 7th June, 1961.

41.

andMr. McQuillan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether there is power under any of the Insurance Acts whereby he could have taken or may take legal proceedings against the New Ireland Assurance Company, or any other such company, for issuing out insurance policies declared by the President of the High Court to be illegal, and which by their nature deprived of a just return persons in the lowest income group in the majority of cases, who were seeking to provide sufficient funds to pay for funeral and other necessary expenses on the death of their parents or other near relatives.

I propose, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to take Questions 40 and 41 together.

As regards the provisions of the Insurance Acts relating to the taking of legal proceedings against companies, I would refer the Deputies to the reply which I gave to a Question on this subject on 7th June, 1961. The Insurance Acts provide that a company which issues a policy of industrial assurance which is illegal orultra vires, shall be liable to repay to the policy holder any premiums paid under the policy.

Information regarding the policies issued in the case referred to by the Deputies did not come to light until the recent action in the High Court was reported, and it was not possible, therefore, to consider the question of legal proceedings before the statutory period had actually expired.

As I announced some time ago, the legislation relating to insurance is at present being reviewed in my Department, and consideration will be given to the question whether any change in the law would be desirable in relation to this matter.

Is it not a fact that the reason no action was taken in this case and a warning only has been issued now is that this advice was not given by the Attorney General to the Minister so that he, the Attorney General, would not be impeded in any way in earning a large fee for defending the New Ireland Assurance Company in the High Court, in the first instance, and subsequently on appeal in the Supreme Court later? Purely personal motives were involved and it is a public scandal and an altogether shocking thing that, because he is a relation by marriage of the President——

(Interruptions)

That kind of dirt gets the Minister nowhere.

That is not dirt. Those are the facts.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce would be wiser not to start that sort of tactic, because there are a few things that could be said, quite a few——

I have no fear of anything Deputy Sweetman might say.

But the Deputy might have a whole lot to fear in relation to things I might say. The record of the Minister for Industry and Commerce——

The Deputy can say what he likes. I have no fear of him, either.

(Interruptions.)

With reference to the Minister's statement that he had no knowledge of this until it came before the High Court, is it not a fact that, according to the 1936 Act, Section 10, it is mandatory on the Attorney General to inform the Minister for Industry and Commerce where he has a doubt with regard to any particular case of this nature? In view of the fact that this case arose two years ago, does the Minister suggest now that the Attorney General did not consult with him about the case until action was initiated in the High Court?

The Attorney General did not consult me in the case —in fact, not at all. The report of the proceedings were the means whereby the Department of Industry and Commerce got notice of this. The Attorney General acted in this matter defending an insurance company in a civil action and he took no action, therefore, that seemed to me to be wrong in any way.

If the Attorney General did not consult him, did the Minister himself ask the Attorney General to give him advice in this matter when he knew the Attorney General was defending this company?

I have no knowledge of what the Attorney General does in his private capacity.

Is it not a fact that the six-months period necessary to give the Minister an opportunity of instituting proceedings could not be availed of, for the very simple reason that the Attorney General——

The Deputy is making a statement, not asking a question.

——failed to give to the Minister the information that was at his disposal in regard to this matter?