Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers - Non-Life Insurance.

18.

asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism the number of insurance companies in the non-life sector operating in the country at present; the number of non-life insurers who commenced business here in 1982 and 1983; the number of undertakings that have sought authorisation to start business here in 1984; and the estimated total value of underwriting in the various years by these insurers.

There are 41 insurance companies authorised to transact non-life insurance business in this country at present of which one has not yet commenced business.

No new authorisations were granted in either 1982 or 1983. Four new non-life companies were authorised in 1984.

The total premium income, net of re-insurance ceded, for all non-life insurers in 1982 and 1983 was £379 million and £420 million respectively. Information for 1984 is not yet available.

With regard to the four companies that sought registration or licences, will the Minister of State indicate if they were United Kingdom incorporated companies or EC companies?

Three of the companies were EC companies and one was a non-EC company. If the Deputy wishes to get further details I will be happy to give him the information.

Will the Minister of State tell the House the figures for the total amount of underwriting under both heads?

The total premium income, net of re-insurance ceded, for all non-life insurers in 1982 and in 1983 was £379 million and £420 million respectively.

19.

asked the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he is aware that an insurer had refused business or indicated that it was not open for business during any period of 1984; if he is satisfied that this company or companies are solvent; if he has placed inspectors to examine the situation of these insurers; if he is contemplating using the Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1983 to deal with any and all of these companies; and if he is satisfied that all insurers licensed by his Department are in fact fulfilling all their obligations.

It is not unusual during the course of any year for insurance companies to regulate their intake of business so as to maintain a balanced portfolio. This is done in the interests of the efficient and orderly conduct of each company's business affairs and it is compatible with the normal commercial freedom of insurers. Generally speaking, I have no difficulty with decisions taken by particular companies in this respect, so long as they bear in mind their responsibilities to the insurance market generally.

While I am aware that a number of companies chose to regulate their intake of business during 1984, I know of no case where an insurer was refusing all business. Even those affected by industrial action continued to renew cover for their existing policyholders.

The regulation of intake of business by insurers does not give grounds for questioning their solvency. Compliance with the financial obligations imposed by insurance legislation is a continuing requirement on all companies, and the process of ensuring that compliance is an ongoing feature of insurance supervision. With the exception of the company under administration of which the Deputy is aware, the latest accounts of authorised non-life insurers demonstrate that they are complying with the statutory requirements.

I have no plans to use the Insurance (No. 2) Act, 1983, in respect of any other non-life insurer at the present time.

Is the Minister aware that there are insurance companies who are refusing to take any business whatsoever? Would he be in a position to say how many such companies exist in the country at present and if his Department have inspectors in looking at the affairs of one of these companies? Would he verify that?

I am not aware that companies are not taking on any business whatsoever. If the Deputy wishes to give me any particular information in that regard I would be happy to have it examined. The Deputy raised the question of inspectors. I do not quite know what he is talking about. Inspectors are appointed under section 46 of the Insurance Act, 1936. This section has not been invoked by a Minister, so there are no inspectors in the Department.

It is within the power of the Minister to appoint inspectors under the 1936 Act if he feels that a particular insurer is in financial difficulty. Perhaps if he had used that formula instead of the blunt instrument——

——his predecessor used a year ago we might not have the dilemma that we have in the insurance business at present. Will he indicate now by yes or no if he has appointed inspectors under the 1936 Act to look into the affairs of any insurer in this country at present?

I have made it quite clear that this section of the Act has never been invoked by the Minister and I have not invoked it.

The remaining questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.