By agreement and notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, Members shall be called in Private Members' Time this evening as follows: 7.00-7.12 p.m., Fianna Fáil speaker; 7.12-7.27 p.m., Fianna Fáil speaker; 7.27-7.42 p.m., Government speaker; 7.42-7-57 p.m., Government speaker; 7.57-8.12 p.m., Fianna Fáil speaker; 8.12-8.27 p.m., Fianna Fáil speaker; 8.27-8.32 p.m., Government speaker and 8.32-8.47 p.m., Fianna Fáil speaker.
Private Members' Business. - Motor Insurance: Motion (Resumed).
Is that agreed?
Deputy Kitt is in possession.
I was speaking last night about the high cost of motor insurance, particularly for young people, and making the point that a large number of people are driving without insurance. A person who is injured by an uninsured driver can seek compensation from the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland. In effect, it is drivers with insurance who support the bureau. Therefore, insured drivers are paying for the uninsured drivers and this is the reason for the very high cost of motor insurance. I support the call for a "no blame" premium for young drivers in regard to motor car insurance. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us the figures of those uninsured. If we take a figure of 100,000 uninsured drivers, we could make available premiums of £500, thereby raising about £5 million. That is the policy we would like to see so that there could be a reasonable premium offered to younger drivers. The Minister and the Department should insist that all insurance companies give that type of cover to younger drivers. Only one insurance company, the Norwich Union, gives cover to motor cyclists
The Motor Insurance Bureau are paying the claims of people injured by uninsured drivers. In the most recent accounts available to me there is a total provision of £49 million for claims in 1984. That is a colossal amount which must be provided to compensate those injured by uninsured drivers.
I hope the Minister will join me in calling on the insurance companies to launch a massive educational campaign in relation to road safety. In many other countries within the EC this has been done by the motor insurance industry. In France, for example, the insurance companies matched the Government contribution towards road safety. I have not seen that happening in this country although, in fairness, the insurance companies contribute to fire prevention campaigns.
I greatly regret that insurance companies are penalising drivers on the basis of their age. Many young people may be named drivers on their parents' policies and may be very experienced drivers, perhaps more experienced than drivers over the age of 40 who can get insurance cover more easily. The criterion should be experience rather than age.
There has been much talk about abolishing juries. The committee set up to report on the cost and methods of providing motor insurance did not agree with abolishing juries. I do not believe such abolition would reduce the cost of premiums. People can be very seriously injured in accidents and there is no guarantee that the awards would be reduced in the absence of a jury. Perhaps the money could be invested on behalf of the injured person rather than paid in a lump sum.
The incidence of accidents is very high in this country by international standards. The Minister of State mentioned measures to improve road safety and the work being done to eliminate accident black spots. When we consider the cutback in the road programme and the condition of our county roads, we must ask where is the Government's will and commitment to improve that aspect of road safety.
The committee report also referred to charging higher premiums for vehicles with inferior locks. I should like to see a more positive type of commitment to lower premiums where there are better locks, alarm systems and anti-theft devices. Perhaps we should consider the situation in Canada and some parts of the USA where there is a mix of the private and public sectors in motor insurance. The insurance industry is regulated by the State and the State sets the premium, but the risk is offered to the private sector. That matter should be considered.
Young drivers are getting a very raw deal. Recently there have been some tragic incidents at car rallies where cars were being driven at speeds of up to 120 m.p.h. on our roads. At the same time people aged 22 or 23 cannot get a realistic insurance premium. There is much red tape involved in setting speed limits. Even where the Garda are recommending speed limits to improve road safety, these proposals have to go to the Department and are held up there for a long time, when the Garda have recommended that they should be implemented immediately and the local authorities are obviously anxious to provide them. Those speed limits should be strictly enforced.
The question of the role of the Garda and of enforcing the law has come up. From the figures the Minister gave here last night, it is obvious that the Garda are very busy trying to track down uninsured drivers. There were 108,000 prosecutions in 1984 and the figure will be as high as 120,000 for 1985. The total number of prosecutions under the traffic laws amounted to 798,000 in 1984. If the Garda had no other duties and responsibilities, this amount of work would have kept them very busy. Perhaps the proposal to provide a sticker on cars from 1 July indicating that the car is insured would make the job of the Garda easier, even though it was rejected by the report on the inquiry into the cost of methods of providing motor insurance. A person can tax his car a week after his insurance has lapsed, so there is a need to bring motor taxation and car insurance into line.
On the question of road accidents, there may have been a drop between 1983 and 1984, but the total number of injuries certainly increased during that year and, in fact, there is a figure for 1984, when one includes accidents and fatal accidents, of 8,625 people. That shows how serious the issue is. There should be a massive publicity campaign to educate people on these facts, to maintain and repair vehicles and to test cars above a certain age, and that should be compulsory.
If one were to read the speech of the Minister of State one would believe there was very little wrong with the insurance industry. We are all aware that at present the whole insurance industry is in a state of chaos. Public liability, employer liability and motor insurance are continuing to produce serious underwriting losses. The motion tonight deals specifically with motor car and motor cycle insurance. There is no doubt that this type of insurance is causing serious problems for the whole insurance industry. We have crippling costs, exorbitant claims, outrageous awards, all leading to a situation where the young motorist is being penalised out of the market. I contend that young drivers are being discriminated against with excessive charges. It is for that reason that one out of every five cars is being driven without proper insurance cover. The Government have a duty to take steps to rectify that serious problem.
The majority of insurance companies licensed to engage in the motor insurance business are not prepared to take a full share of the risks involved. They are looking for a motor portfolio which will be profitable and are, therefore, taking the mature motorist, the motorist over 25 years who has a full licence and, more often than not, has no claim against him. All this is happening at the expense of the under-25s and younger drivers. The Minister should ensure that all insurance companies are prepared to take all the risks involved on a more equitable basis. The risk is a basic principle in the insurance industry and I do not think certain insurance companies should be allowed to shy away from that risk. Car insurance for younger people should not have to be carried on by a few companies while the others tout for the profitable sector of motor insurance business. Drivers under 25 years are at present in an impossible situation with regard to getting even a quotation. That is seriously wrong. It is a serious problem that has been with the insurance companies and the insurance industry over the past number of years.
We must face up to our responsibilities. We have a duty to ensure that the younger driver is not discriminated against and will get a fair crack of the whip and be able to get insurance at a reasonable cost. At present there is no way that a young person can afford to pay the ridiculously high prices being sought by the insurance companies. That is a fact of life that is facing all politicians. But the Government have made a very little effort over the past three years to tackle this serious problem. Because of their inability to pay such high insurance premiums, young people are taking the chance of driving without insurance and this has serious consequences for both the driver and the general public when an accident occurs and it is in that particular age group that most accidents occur.
In regard to insurance for young drivers, one must take into account that cars are no longer a luxury for most people. The scarcity of jobs in most areas means that young people need a car to travel to work in other towns and sometimes outside the county. They are finding it impossible to buy a car, to run a car, to pay the insurance. I know many young people who purchased a car for about £1,500 and were quoted a figure above that for insurance. No young person starting out in a low paid job can afford to buy a car and pay for the type of insurance involved. That is the reason many young people are just not insuring their cars at present. Every Deputy in this House is aware of such cases. None of us can say we have not had young people coming to us complaining about the high charges for insurance, complaining about not being able to use the car to go to work. In some cases people have actually had to give up their jobs because of being unable to get there.
This is a serious problem which the Minister should look at seriously. What is needed at present is a set of proposals agreed between the Government, the insurance industry and the public. In the short term at least, that will lead to a stabilisation of the cost of insurance. Today we hear that insurance premiums are to go up by about 15 per cent. I do not know how true that is. But the Minister should certainly look at the situation and say to the insurance companies: "Halt; enough is enough." The Government should have a look at the whole insurance industry before premiums are allowed to increase further because this will lead to more cars being driven without insurance and it will certainly escalate the number of young people driving without insurance. In the long term we have to have proposals that will lead to a dramatic reduction in the cost of insurance. Two major cost factors at present are the high level of accidents and the exorbitant levels of compensation being awarded through the jury system. Awards under the jury system should be looked at and reconsidered. Deputy Flynn pointed out last night that that would not lead to a dramatic reduction in insurance premium costs, and I agree with him, but it might lead to a tapering off in short term insurance premia. For that reason the jury system should be looked at.
We have a very high level of accidents, and this must be of grave concern to all. The Government have a greater role to play in this area. They should introduce and implement legislation that will lead to some type of control on motorists. Road conditions are the cause of one in three accidents. Low cost measures, such as the removal of accident black spots, improving road networks and so on, could bring about a reduction of at least 12 per cent of all accidents and, if high cost measures were taken, that reduction could be 20 per cent. Such work would make a considerable contribution to a reduction in the price of premia because fewer accidents mean fewer claims. This, one would hope, would lead to reduced premia, but sometimes I wonder when I consider the attitude of the insurance companies. A greater number of road signs would make the motorist aware of accident black spots. In every county accidents occur regularly on particular stretches of roads but until two or three people are killed the local authority will not take action. This is one area the Minister should look at seriously.
I would like to deal now with learner drivers. We were all learner drivers at one time and we all took chances, and probably even broke the law, but this is another area the Minister should look at very seriously. We must be the only county in the world where a 17 year old can get a provisional licence and take a car out on the road without any driving qualifications. The law must be tightened in this area and the Minister should introduce legislation which prohibits provisional licence holders from driving cars above, say, 1100 cc. The same would apply to motor cyclists on cycles of more than 100 cc. I do not believe a young person who has not taken driving lessons and is therefore inexperienced is qualified to drive a big car. It must be remembered that a young person will always want to drive a big flashy car knowing he will look great.
Educating the motorists on their responsibilities as road users is another area in which the Government could play a greater role through the National Road Safety Association. Many motorists could do with some form of education because they take chances on the road and do all sorts of dangerous things which eventually lead to accidents. We should have a proper programme to educate motorists, particularly our young people. I hope the Minister will start a campaign to ensure that motorists are aware of all the problems. As I said, accidents lead to high premia and at the end of the day they militate against the young driver, and I am concerned that young people should be able to get insurance cover at reasonable cost.
Last night the Minister made a statement on vehicle safety. He said gardaí will be checking the road worthiness of motor cars, and that drivers will be given a certain amount of time for defects to be remedied, but I wonder if the Garda are in a position to do this. In my town of Enniscorthy I do not believe the Garda have the time to take on another task nor do they have enough manpower to tackle this problem. Therefore, I believe this plan will fail. At present the Garda pull in trucks, have them weighed to see if they are overloaded and so on, and I do not believe they would have the time to implement another, even worthwhile, scheme. The Minister will have to increase the number of Gardaí if the scheme is to be a success.
Motor cyclists have a particular problem because insurance companies refuse to cover pillion passengers. I agree with Deputy Flynn who said that if a motor cyclist has a full driving licence he should be able to get insurance cover for the pillion passenger. It is important that the Minister look at this problem because there are 70,000 motor cyclists in Ireland and I do not believe any Government or any insurance company has the right to disregard them.
A suggestion which has been put forward from time to time and which merits investigation and costing by the Department is that a levy be charged on petrol usage and that, in turn, would be deemed as insurance payment. I do not know how realistic or how sensible this is but young people always put that suggestion forward. This money would be passed to the Exchequer. The Government have two State-owned insurance companies — PMPA and ICI. The money collected by way of a levy on petrol usage could be passed by the Exchequer to those insurance companies which would handle all insurance claims. This deserves investigation. It would ensure that every person on the road would be insured and we would not have the problem of large compensation as a result of accidents and uninsured drivers. Perhaps the Minister would give his opinion on this. It may not be a practical solution but it deserves investigation.
Limerick East): In the limited time at my disposal I want to cover a few subjects that arose in the debate last night, namely young drivers, “no-blame” insurance, jury trials and bogus motor insurers. I also want to announce some good news for disabled drivers, and to mention one or two other points.
Dealing firstly with young drivers, the cost of motor insurance for young drivers is higher than other classes because of a number of important factors. Firstly, they are regarded as a higher risk group. The road accident facts support this, as do the studies of the Motor Premiums Advisory Committee in the late seventies. Young drivers are also usually inexperienced — provisional licence holders, and are loaded for a temporary period on this account. My Department have, however, got insurers to place an overall limit on the combined effect of age and inexperience loadings. Finally, and probably most importantly, young drivers have not yet earned their no claims bonus, which in the case of many drivers can amount to a discount of more than half the basic premium.
These are the facts. When proposals are made to reduce the premium for such a large class of drivers, the implications must be spelled out. Since the level of claims remains unchanged the total amount of premium would have to be recouped from the remaining sectors. In short, the premiums of the older, and the claims free motorists, would have to be levelled up. Maybe that is no bad thing but it is important to point this out when proposals on young drivers are being considered. If we are evening out the level of premia charged, the effect is to increase the premia on everyone else.
Deputy Flynn suggested that insurers who get licences to do motor insurance should be required to take on a broad spectrum of risks and not discriminate against any other sector. Reference was made to certain selected group motor insurance schemes. However, the claims experienced on a number of the group schemes and the consequential hefty rate increases a couple of years ago put paid to several of them. I know of group schemes that ran into serious difficulties: people who started off with low levels of premia have a higher loading now than if they were to go commercial in these restrictive schemes which are supposed to be for low risk people.
In so far as a balanced portfolio of risks is concerned, my Department have on a number of occasions obtained assurances from insurers that they would play their part in taking on young drivers. I am loath, as Deputy Flynn said he would be, to have to resort to legislation on this matter, since insurers must be given the latitude to accept or decline risks. However, I want to see insurers playing a full role in accepting their fair share of risks in the market and I will be disappointed if they do not. It is fair to say that frequently young drivers can be added to the insurance of their parents at very low cost, and if we were to make changes along the lines suggested by Deputies opposite it would not necessarily follow that this way of getting insurance for young people would be maintained indefinitely.
Deputy Flynn suggested a system of no blame insurance whereby young drivers would not be loaded at the start and those of them who were not bad drivers would be given a chance to prove so. This has certain attractions but also a number of drawbacks. The provision of insurance is based on the expected risk insurers are covering when they accept the premium. Thus if one is in a high risk group it is only reasonable that the premium should reflect the risk. What would happen if, say, all drivers starting out were rated as clean risks? When the inevitable accident happens will the young driver be expected to pay the costs of the accident in his next year's premium? Would the insurer even expect to recoup the premium? The driver could either give up driving, or break the law and go uninsured. Perhaps at the end of year one the claims would be averaged out over all the young drivers involved. This would hardly be "fair"— fair, that is, under the Deputy's scheme. Those clean drivers would have been persuaded to buy insurance on a false premise. At the end of their year's claim free driving they would see their premium increase without any basic increase in the overall level of claims, or without any claims having been made by them.
The principle of insurance is that the premiums of the many cover the claims of the few. Insurance can be underwritten only on the basis of having the fund of premium income there before the claims arise in order to fund the payment of the claims. Thus, younger drivers as a class have to be rated on the basis of the higher expected level of claims from that group. However, as I have said, I would expect the companies to play their part to make sure that, while we allow for the fact that young drivers are higher risk group than older and experienced drivers, they require insurance and should not be discriminated against by a series of refusals. Deputies are aware, of course, that there is a mechanism via the Declined Cases Agreement where everybody will get a quotation and my Department regularly take up cases with insurance companies where people get a series of refusals. We will continue with that.
Deputy Flynn referred to the Courts Bill and the abolition of juries. The intention of the Government is that this measure will be proceeded with and I see it as an important element needed to bring stability into the insurance market in general. I know that there are different views of the effect of juries on premiums. Deputies opposite made this point a while ago. I am clear in my mind that the effect of juries is adverse. I do not think that any of us would want to retain a system which could develop some of the worst features of what is in the US at the moment. It is not surprising that the cost of liability insurance over there has increased by so much and that one reads of sporting events and festive and commercial ventures which have to close through lack of insurance. A statement was brought to my attention that in Georgia the local jail had to close down because of lack of liability cover and the activities of local municipalities in several states had to be severely curtailed because of lack of public liability cover.
We want a sensible, rational, less time-consuming way of settling claims that will allow one to predict the right level at which a claim could be settled. This is difficult to achieve under the jury trials system. There is no reason to believe that victims' rights will be prejudiced by the abolition. The Circuit Court which has been dealing with claims such as this involving the same citizens' rights since 1972, operates quite satisfactorily without a jury. I am not saying that the level of claims will decrease dramatically or that the amount awarded by judges will be substantially below the amount awarded by juries. That is not the argument I would put forward. I would argue that there will be more consistency in the awards made by judges and it will be easier for insurance companies to predict the level of risk and, consequently, to arrange their projections, their cover and their costs in a more predictable fashion. In so far as the Deputy referred to it, yes, the intention is that the Government will go ahead with the Courts Bill.
Deputy Kitt mentioned a problem of bogus motor certificates being issued by bogus insurers and others. My Department have taken significant action in previous years in publishing warning notices against dealing with specific named companies and individuals operating in the market without authorisation. If the Deputy has specific evidence he should, as the Minister of State said yesterday, bring it to my or the Minister of State's notice and we will act on it. I want to advise all of those in doubt over any insurer whom they have reason to suspect to contact my Department, where the list of authorised insurers can be consulted. Deputies are probably aware that an authorised list is available for consultation by Deputies or any member of the public. Last year the powers available to the Minister were strengthened to take action against bogus insurers and the powers will be used where necessary.
All Deputies will know that a special advisory board on motor insurance was set up and began work last year examining the loadings applied to different categories of drivers, including young drivers. The first report of the board will be in my hands shortly. Of its nature the compilation, analysis and drawing of conclusions from the statistics will be ongoing over a number of years. I can say, however, that I am advised that the board will be making a recommendation to me on the loadings applied to disabled drivers with a view to a reduction in these and a more equitable regime for such drivers. I will be happy to approve that proposal when it comes before me and I am sure everybody here will welcome that. This is an important step in the right direction and has been agreed with the insurers.
The point is worth developing somewhat because the House may not be aware that at present disabled drivers experience loadings ranging from 25 per cent to 100 per cent on their basic premiums. Under this new arrangement loading for disability will be removed for the vast majority of disabled drivers at their next renewal date, whenever that occurs. Reduced loadings of 20 per cent for the first year of insurance and 15 per cent for the second year will be applied. There will be no loading after two years of claim free driving. Therefore, it will go from reduced loadings of 20 per cent to 15 per cent and after that clear if there is no claim. Disabled drivers should approach their insurers to have their cases reviewed at the next renewal date as it will be operable from the next renewal date.
(Limerick East): I see that allegations made last night concerning increased premium rates have got some publicity in the newspapers. If the impression sought to be created was that all rates are going to move up, this is not the case.
That was incorrectly reported.
(Limerick East): Fair enough, it is not the case. More generally speaking — and it is a point the Deputies might not wish to draw attention to — the size and rate of price increases notified in the last year have abated considerably. I use the word “notified”, since detailed price control has been lifted on insurance, subject to insurers informing the Department three weeks ahead of proposed changes in premiums. The market for motor insurance is improving and underwriting losses are expected to show a significant reduction for 1984 both in absolute terms and as a percentage of premium. This is testimony of the Government's action and I look forward to continued improvement.
I wish to challenge the views expressed on the levels of fines being imposed. The administration of justice is a matter for the courts and that is as it should be. The courts must take into account a person's ability to pay a fine. For example, a person may not qualify for unemployment benefit and may be in receipt of about £80 per week from unemployment assistance. He would like to run his car but cannot pay £500, £600 or £700 in insurance costs so there must be a regime which takes into account the person's ability to pay.
It does not excuse the fact that 93 per cent of people brought before the courts for driving without insurance are fined less than £200.
(Limerick East): That has now changed dramatically but I do not think Deputies would accept harsh fines being imposed on those with limited means. However, the courts have been increasing the level of fines contrary to what insurers say. In the second six months of 1985 in the Dublin Metropolitan District, fines of £100, £300 and £500 were the most common fines for driving without insurance. Maximum fines of £1,000 were also imposed and terms of imprisonment were imposed in 599 cases. In 1985 as a whole, fines of between £100 and £500 comprised over 60 per cent of the fines applied. That is the most up-to-date information, although I know another set of statistics is being circulated which are not correct. These figures speak for themselves and I fully agree with Deputy Flynn that offenders should pay the price, especially drunk driving offenders. We know that an unemployed man with a wife and a flock of children should not be driving a car without insurance but the district justice must deal with each case individually. I do not agree that we should remove the stipulation from law that the means of people should be taken into account when they are dealt with in the District Court.
I am glad the Opposition put down this motion because it gives me an opportunity to make it quite clear that the Government have acted vigorously in the area of motor insurance. Far from the amendment motion being, as Deputy Flynn claimed last night, a confirmation of the Opposition motion, the situation is the reverse. Nearly all the measures enumerated by the Deputy in his opening remarks yesterday as being necessary are, in fact, being undertaken and that is why there is so little disagreement.
I note that the Minister said "are being undertaken" and not "have be undertaken".
(Limerick East): Everything is ongoing in the world of insurance.
We are stirring the pot.
(Limerick East): I urge the House to pass this amendment and if anyone has any doubts I refer him or her to the speech of the Minister of State, Deputy Collins, who outlined the range of measures being undertaken by the Government to do what Deputy Flynn, a very sensible Deputy, wants us to do.
I realise that Deputy Flynn's speech last night did not amount to a recommendation that the insurance industry in its motor insurance dimension should be nationalised or subsidised. However, I have a nasty feeling about the cry for cheap or reasonable insurance for young drivers or cries of that kind when they are articulated by politicians. I realise that we all have the job of trying to make life better for those around us in whatever field is open to us, but we need to understand that, when we articulate a demand, state a principle, or lodge a complaint against our opponents in contexts in which we are glad to suppose that our constituents will support us to the extent that what we are saying agrees with their prejudices or wishes, we will be doing something with implications which we would not like to face if in office.
While I specifically do not accuse Deputy Flynn of anything of the sort, it is not the first time we have heard, in the House or outside it, the claim that insurance is too high for young drivers in particular and for certain other categories and that it should be reduced. I have heard it said in the House that if companies will not run insurance in a way which makes it more accessible to young drivers, those companies should be nationalised and that we should have a subsidised State company administering the insurance. I do not want to erect targets to which the Opposition did not refer and then knock them down. I do not want to spend the rest of my time disclaiming such intention, but any time this theme is raised it naturally evokes in the minds of the voters, those who are interested in the subject, the feeling that, because they are on the other side in debates of this sort, the Government are to blame for things being as they are and that it is in their power to amend them.
Of course it is in the Government's power to do many things, including some of the matters to which Deputy Flynn and others adverted, and it would be in their power to nationalise the insurance industry or sections of it and to have a special regime for young drivers in which they would be given preferential treatment by reference to their risk assessment. That is all possible but it is undesirable that this should happen. I hope that nothing said on the other side — even though they did not use such words themselves — will be construed by their supporters or anybody else as indicating a volume of support in this House for the State to step in, whether by regulation or nationalisation, to assume the burden which at present is borne commercially.
Nobody on this side of the House suggested that.
I have admitted that and I do not want to spend the rest of my time repeating the admission. I do not think I ever accused a Deputy in here, except in moments of heat to which I am as liable as the next Deputy, of something of which he was not guilty. To bring a motion of this sort before the House is——
I do not deny that, but to bring in a motion of this kind in a context where the Government must reply to it awakens the expectation among the public, who do not of course take the trouble to read the small print in the speeches of Deputy Flynn or the Minister, that the Government have it in their power by pushing a financial lever to change the situation. It would be more sensible to make people understand as, of course, most of them do, that the whole principle of insurance is one of mutuality, of sharing a light burden of premiums in order that the very heavy burden of liability or claims does not fall on an individual in a measure which he is quite unable to meet. The whole principle is one of pooling resources. It is like a burial society or a Christmas draw for a turkey. Everybody contributes a little in order that someone else will have a large benefit.
In this case the benefit is that he will be freed of the liability which the ordinary law imposes upon him to answer for his neglect, for his want of care and for his negligence. To be free of that liability is an extremely valuable thing. I was not listening to the first half of the debate last night but I read parts of it subsequently and I do not know if any Member adverted to the fact that rock bottom third party motor insurance of the kind the law requires us to have entitles anybody to go out without having had a driving lesson, a driving test, expertise or competence in driving, without being sober and in the right degree of physical competence that eight hours sleep implies, drive with wild recklessness and kill not one person but, perhaps, a very much greater number in a multiple accident and be completely free of as much financial liability as would take a slate from his roof.
That point has been sufficiently got home on either side of the House and I am sorry to feel obliged to say it now. That possibility exists only because of the contribution of a very large number of people who make a small contribution in premiums and never make a claim. To disturb that system, to rattle at the basis of it, to undermine it in any way, however well intentioned — I know that is what is at work in the motion before the House — by suggesting that it can be manipulated in some way, that it is only a lack of understanding or neglect on the part of somebody or other that it should be as it is, awakens expectations among a public who, I am sorry to say, have become accustomed to having their expectations awakened and then, very often, not fulfilled.
We have a very important benefit in civilised society in the whole insurance principle. I do not have any stake in it, I do not own shares in an insurance company and, perhaps, it is just as well that I do not.
The Deputy is lucky he did not have his money in the PMPA.
I did not have shares in that company either. This is one of those benefits that people in a society like this live with without ever realising the force of it. When one tells a young driver that it is a disgrace, as I feel many Deputies, councillors, or people in politics may well do behind their hands, that he should be penalised for his age and so forth, public representatives do not tell that boy that he could go out and inflict on another human being as much physical injury as would destroy his life and would entitle him in the eyes of a jury to £200,000 worth of damages and for nothing. An insurance premium of £365 per year which, for a young person, would be a heavy insurance rate — it is about two-thirds of what I pay for comprehensive cover — works out at £1 per day. To drive a car which weighs the best part of a tonne of metal, more in some cases, at any speed and with any degree of competence one likes, 365 days per year and do any amount of damage, human and other kinds of damage, for £1 per day is a bargain. To be able to do that much damage and not have to apprehend losing one shilling out of one's pocket over and above a no claims bonus is a bargain. That facet of the type of society we live in must not be obscured in a debate like this although I do not accuse any Member of trying to obscure it.
I defend also the system of dividing drivers into categories. If we were to do otherwise, if we were to have no differentiation between drivers young and old, it would be grossly unfair to older drivers. Why should a 70 year-old who takes his car to Mass, the library or to see his son and nowhere else and merely puts about 1,500 miles on the clock be saddled with liability for people who may drive 15 times that distance, who are up at all hours of the day and night, who have stress, fatigue, maybe drink and all kinds of problems weighing on them, problems of the sort that the old person does not have? Why should he be part of that pool? It is unreasonable to create a special pool of less dangerous drivers and another pool of those who statistically turn up more accidents? That is not unreasonable. I have sons in this situation and I have tried, without lecturing them in the way I am lecturing the House, to make it clear to them that a high risk category necessarily involves larger expense in an insurance system. If we start to shake at the roots of this insurance system it will be no time before we will have a Government — I have enough imagination to visualise it——
A change is on its way.
The Deputy should wait until I have finished my sentence. I can see a Government coming that one day in a fit of election fever will promise a ceiling on insurance premiums for young drivers. The day that happens is the day the whole insurance system here will be on the way down. It will only be a measurable distance until the State has the whole insurance millstone, not just rescue packages, around its neck from one end of the year to the other.
A change of Government is coming.
The Deputy did not listen to the end of my sentence. If there is a change of Government and if it is led by the present leader of the Deputies opposite it is precisely the kind of Government that would be likely to make such a promise in order to defend their seats.
The Deputy should be realistic.
I hope the Deputy's remarks are not misinterpreted in the media tomorrow.
The Deputy is doing a bit of imagining.
The Deputy is daydreaming towards evening.
The Deputy put up four targets but knocked them all down.
I should like to make three more points which are not contentious. I am not sure that the abolition of juries is the right way to approach this matter. It may result in cheaper awards but will it result in fairer awards? If a relative belonging to any of the Deputies was injured in an accident how would they like it to be said, "if only you had taken your action six months ago before the new law was brought in you would have got £150,000 but now we only have a mingy old judge sitting there without a jury drawn from the county you can only expect one-third of that". How would Members opposite like to be caught in that position? When the relevant Bill comes before the House I will be saying that I am not sure that this is a proper system. I accept that the whole legal system whereby an array of two or three counsel appearing for one party can draw costs. Even though I belong to that profession I accept that that is something which is unacceptable and inexplicable to the public. However, if that system is changed in such a way that a lawyer is bound to appear at a particular case and has to refuse all other briefs, that there is not the possibility of juggling from one court to another, the fees will go up.
The only criticism I have of Irish insurance companies in this context is that they are too defensive. They whinge, whine and cry about the freedom of establishment and about how foreign companies are going to come here and take all their business from them as the Italian company, Assicurazioni Generali, has done by capturing 3 per cent of the Irish motor market. Why are the insurance companies not availing of this mechanism and looking for business in the foreign markets, access to which membership of the EC guarantees us? We think only in terms of the sale of butter and beef which few people want today and nobody will want tomorrow. Nobody gives a damn about the other dimensions of the market of which this is a very simple and topical example.'
Usually I have a lot of admiration for what Deputy Kelly has to say but I found it very difficult to comprehend his sentiments on the insurance industry. It is clear that the cause of the high cost of motor insurance is Government inaction. That inaction has resulted in continuous increases in the cost of motor insurance. We are not suggesting, as the Deputy has tried to point out, that there should be any nationalisation or interference by politicians. We are suggesting a series of Government actions which would reduce the cost of insurance. Deputy Kelly, more than any other Member, should understand how that Government action would help the cost of motor insurance. I have with me the MacLiam Report published in November 1981. That committee was set up by Mr. John Kelly TD, Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism. Government action was requested in 1983 in regard to 20 measures. The report stated that if those measures were adopted they would bring about a better climate in the insurance industry. One measure set out in this MacLiam report has since been implemented by this Government. I put it to the House that the reason motor insurance costs have gone through the roof is the inability of this Government to implement a series of measures which would greatly improve the climate throughout the industry.
There was another committee established in 1985, a working group of Ministers of State, who succeeded in continuing the talk shop. I want to put to the House the areas in which I, the insurance industry, and everybody concerned about the price of insurance, feel would bring about a decrease in the cost of motor insurance.
First, there is the question of jury trials in respect of which this Government have failed to bring forward legislation. I know the Courts Bill is before the House, but clearly this Government either had not the backbone or were afraid of the lawyers' lobby to bring this legislation into being. There is no question or doubt in my mind but that the jury system is a significant contributor to the high cost of motor insurance. The jury system requires 12 people with little or no knowledge or experience in such matters not only to make decisions on legal liability but also to assess damages.
This results in awards which are inconsistent, unreliable and totally unpredictable.
This unpredictability makes for exaggerated settlements, unrealistic expectations. It also leads to far too many expensive appeals to the Supreme Court. An example of this is that in the five year period from 1980 to 1985, 316 awards by High Court juries were appealed to the Supreme Court. A significant feature of those appeals was that in two-thirds of the cases brought before the Supreme Court they disagreed with the awards granted by juries. This unpredictability of jury awards as well as being unfair to defendants can create injustice for the injured parties. Additionally, the legal system operating around this jury system is cumbersome, unwieldy and time-wasting. The two seniors system, under which each participant in a case must have two senior counsel, one junior counsel and a solicitor, adds significantly to the cost of settling insurance claims. Because of the jury system a whole series of experts, such as doctors, engineers, architects and so on are required to give verbal evidence, with all of those people sitting in a courtroom perhaps for days on end, all being paid very high fees. An estimation of the cost of the jury system in most High Court cases is that litigation accounts for approximately 20 per cent of the total amount paid out in claims by insurance companies. Therefore there is no doubt in my mind but that the discontinuation of the jury system will significantly reduce the cost of motor insurance. It is significant also that Ireland is now the only country in Europe that decides civil claims by jury. Clearly, this Government had not got the backbone to introduce the legislation to do away with that jury system which is having a direct effect on the premiums being paid for motor insurance, particularly by young people.
The Government have failed to act on the whole question of the uninsured motorist, and indeed with regard to the implementation of standards with regard to vehicle defects, drunken driving and general safety on our roads. I must seriously disagree with the Minister in what he said with regard to the efforts the Government have made to reduce the incidence of uninsured motorists. The insurance industry have estimated, from a survey of fines imposed on drivers convicted of driving without insurance and carried out in the six month period between October 1984 and April 1985—that, despite the tenfold increase in the maximum fine from £100 to £1,000, over 80 per cent of those fines were still under £100. It will be clearly seen that the present system is no deterrent to uninsured drivers. If anything it invites young people not to bother insuring their vehicles. The fault lies fairly and squarely at the door of this Government who have failed to implement the recommendations of the MacLiam report with regard to the minimum amount of fine and other aspects of punishment which should be meted out.
The no-blame policy which has been proposed by Deputy Flynn carries worthwhile benefits for young people. I believe this constitutes the way in which the Government, the insurance companies and the public generally can co-operate in reducing the cost of motor insurance. For example, if a young person has to pay £1,500 for motor insurance when he can perhaps buy a car for £1,000 it is natural that he will not pay that insurance. I believe a no-blame policy would lead to a significant increase in the numbers of people who would take out insurance on their vehicles and that it would constitute the first significant input of finance into insurance companies. Second, the penalty being imposed after the accident will ensure that young people will make every effort to avoid being involved in an accident. The third benefit of this no-blame policy will be that uninsured drivers will no longer have the excuse of being unable to afford to pay for motor insurance.
I look forward to the implementation of the Fianna Fáil policy as a new principle in the motor insurance industry because I have no doubt but that it will work. I have discussed it with some insurance companies as part of Fianna Fáil's youth policy. They are quite satisfied that, with proper safeguards, it can be made to work. This Government have rejected that logical suggestion, indeed have even refused to consider its merits.
The large numbers of claims and accidents also mean that the cost of insurance lies heavily on motorists generally and, in particular, on young motorists. Here again I want to lay the blame firmly on the shoulders of this Government. They have failed to enforce what are considered to be minimum road safety standards, minimum standard in regard to drunken driving, vehicle defects and, indeed, the condition of our roads themselves. In Canada, which I visited recently, a person dare not attempt to drive if he or she feels they are over the alcohol limit. Here it is quite normal, day in day out, night in night out, to have thousands of drivers driving with very significant levels of alcohol in their blood. In other words, the law is not being enforced. The Government are to blame. The statistics show quite clearly that in the hours between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. the most significant numbers of accidents and deaths take place. Again the blame lies fairly on the shoulders of the Government who are not prepared to ensure that the law is enforced.
That was equally true under all Governments.
The one difference now is that the cost of motor insurance has increased four-hundredfold in the last three years, which was not the case during the terms of office of previous Governments. This Government have failed to honour their responsibility in this regard.
There is this famous committee of Ministers sitting at present. One wonders what they are doing. We heard from the Minister last evening many things they were going to do. One of the other causes of the high cost of motor insurance is the condition of vehicles on our roads. The Minister announced last evening that the vehicle defects campaign would commence in 1986. One might well ask: what have this Government been doing for almost the last four years that they have not dealt with the basic problem of the condition of vehicles? What have this Government been doing with regard to the various aspects of this MacLiam report which Deputy Kelly established in 1981? They have been doing nothing. They have been setting up either committees or commissions but have not been taking any action which would stop young drivers from paying through their noses for insurance cover.
There are four problems which will be tackled by Fianna Fáil when they come back to Government which will bring about a climate conducive to reasonable insurance costs. Jury trials in civil actions will be discontinued. We will lay down standards for law enforcement and we will provide the means for the punishment of people who defy the law. One such action recommended by insurance companies is that when a person is fined and refuses to pay, his car would be confiscated until he does. Recently a judge complained that there is no point in imposing fines on uninsured drivers because the fines would never be collected. We suggest that cars of uninsured drivers should be impounded until they pay the fines.
Why do the Government not introduce legislation along these lines? The reason is that they are not interested in the cost to people of motor insurance. I fail to understand the logic of Deputy Kelly's speech in the face of the Government's inaction to create a climate in the insurance business conducive to allowing drivers to be insured at half the present price.
I support this very important motion. It is obvious that the insurance business is in crisis not only in regard to motorists but public liability cover, employers' liability, sports and so on. It is virtually impossible to get cover quickly at a reasonable price. I cannot understand why the Government, who have set up committees and commissions to investigate various problems — Deputy Collins set up a committee of Ministers to investigate insurance — have not come up with a solution to the problems besetting the insurance industry.
I will illustrate how serious the position is in regard to car insurance cover. Today an 18-year-old looked for a quotation to cover a car worth £1,000. He was quoted £1,200. That is serious and the reason for it is that the Government and the State do not make an effort to provide insurance at reasonable cost to anybody who wants it if he or she is able to pay a reasonable price for it. In 1970 I was an 18-year-old and I was able to get insurance cover for £40. Today the cost is £1,200.
Criteria should be drawn up that would put a ceiling on insurance premiums. We should stipulate that £10 per week, £500 per annum, would be the maximum figure for young people under 25 years and £1,000 per annum for fully licensed drivers. Something must be done by the Department or the Government as a whole to create an environment in which insurance costs would be brought to realistic levels soon. There is a stipulation that insurance cover is not valid in some cases unless one is accompanied by a fully licensed driver of more than 25 years. This is impossible for most insured persons. The only people who could enjoy that kind of luxury would be a Minister or Minister of State. The ordinary citizen cannot afford that luxury. That stipulation will have to be abolished so that cover once given will qualify the person or persons named in the policy.
One way to achieve that would be through certificates of competence: people who drive should be made to prove their competence through a driving course culminating in a simple test and a certificate. At the renewal of their insurance cover in 12 months they should have to undergo a mandatory driving test and if they passed there would be certain reductions in the renewal premium; if they failed the test they would not be entitled to the reduction and therefore would be paying the price for not being as competent as other drivers.
There are many uninsured drivers in the country. The economic situation is the main cause. People on social welfare benefits, young people who cannot afford to pay, fathers of families who have to maintain those families, take the risk of driving without insurance until they encounter the police or have accidents. They do not consider it necessary to have insurance. We must create a climate in which our people will be encouraged to have proper insurance cover at reasonable prices.
The Government have added seriously to the problems of the insurance companies. In Britain, where the population is so large and the revenue base so great, it is much easier for insurance companies to operate profitably and charge the insured less. We have a smaller population and a much narrower revenue base. In Britain they have a far superior road network. Here our roads are disintegrating and the Government will not give funds to provide proper main or county roads throughout the nation. There is another cutback this year.
The biggest mistake the Government made was the DIRT provision in this year's budget which will cut seriously into the revenue of insurance companies in the short and long term. The direct interest retention tax will ensure that the cost of insurance cover will escalate. We know that insurance companies are considering another hike in insurance and I hope the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who was in the Department of Justice and who understands the legal implications, will ensure that motorists will not suffer more.
The Government set up a committee and, indeed, they have set up many commissions. We heard last night from the Minister of State that this committee were concerned with road safety precautions. It is the duty of the Minister for the Environment and his Department to ensure that roads are safe, first in the quality of roads and second in the competence of people to be on those roads. That may have an inherent effect on the cost of insurance, but basically it should not have to worry the Minister of State. His duty should be to ensure that reasonably priced insurance premia are available to all throughout the country. He contrasted the present costs of insurance with those in 1980, 1981 and 1982. He also spoke about high inflation. I often wonder about the time this Government can spend talking about the cost of inflation. At least insurance premia in the 1980 to 1982 period were reasonably priced and available on a regular basis. According to the Government, inflation today is supposed to be at zero per cent, yet the cost of insurance is absolutely astronomical, beyond the reach of the vast majority of ordinary working people and the unemployed. That situation cannot continue. The Government have a duty and a function to ensure that it will not continue any longer.
Now that we are a member state of the European Community, international law covers the trading situation pertaining to the operation of multinationals here and there are many multinational insurance companies in this country. Many of these operate in Britain where insurance premia are only one-third of what they cost here. Those same companies clean out the market for a certain period but, when they find that large claims are being given against them and they are beginning to lose money on the motoring end, they close down the motoring section of their business here and operate life and other commercial cover which is much more lucrative. That cannot be allowed to continue. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that any company coming into the country will keep their systems and policies open to all motorists at all times. The market is being fragmented. Fewer companies are operating motor cover than heretofore. They are closing down on a regular basis and there is only one company in the country today who are constantly open to giving adequate insurance cover to motorists of any age who seek that cover. That is the sad situation at which we have arrived.
Our legislation must be changed to ensure that companies cannot do what they like, where and when they like to motorists. If they give cover elsewhere within the European Community and operate here, we must insist that they make available to us who are a member state of that Community the same type of cover at the same reasonable price.
The Judiciary must also take cognisance of the serious effect of high awards with the jury system in court. It is vitally important in all areas of law that the Judiciary be constantly briefed and updated on the various changes in law, the problems besetting the country financially, the changes in traffic laws and the difficulties being encountered by the insurance industry, to ensure that the awards which they grant are reasonable. I know of many people, including my own relations, who have paid large amounts to barristers to defend them. One barrister defends the client, another operates for the insurance company and there are perhaps four barristers involved in the one case. Innocent, distraught people are totally disturbed on finding themselves in a very difficult environment in court. The barristers get together, make an agreement, one of their number tells the judge that an agreed figure has been reached and the decision is made. It becomes law and is totally binding on all parties.
When those people get notification of the result, they realise their predicament and have no recourse to appeal of any type in any court. Something will have to be done, through the Department of Industry and Commerce, with the Motor Insurance Bureau and the judicial system, to see that this will not continue. Department information officers will have to be available in the courts in these cases to explain to the innocent victims of serious motor crashes their rights and entitlements and what they are going to receive in financial terms. Some realism must be brought into this area of the insurance. Otherwise the insurance industry will be in difficulties vis-à-vis motor insurance.
There are cases of drivers with alcohol in their system who are involved in crashes, get scratched and are taken to hospital. They do not then have to undergo the same type of tests which are done on other drivers. Perhaps somebody is killed, as happens in many cases. That driver can walk away on payment of a nominal fine and innocent people are killed going about their normal business. The advice of medical people is that it is dangerous to insist on these tests being done. This area must be tightened up, so that the heavy awards made in such a situation will not continue.
The Government have failed to make available the proper climate and type of insurance cover and the committee which were set up have also failed to do so. I urgently appeal to the Minister and the Minister of State for immediate action to be taken to have realistic premia available for motorists.
I call Deputy Taylor, to conclude at 8.32 p.m.
This is quite a difficult and complex subject. One cannot hope to say very much on it in the space of five minutes, but I want to express one or two thoughts on the matter. The major emphasis which appears to be given to the subject goes to the trimmings rather than the core of the subject. We talk about administration costs, legal costs of barristers and solicitors and the abolition of juries. Both the Minister and Deputy Fahey appear to think that the abolition of juries on this issue will be a panacea and bring a state of order to the insurance market. I do not believe that for one moment. I do not believe it will produce any reduction whatsoever in the rate of insurance premiums. One insurance broker interviewed on radio on this subject conceded that the abolition of juries, first, would be unlikely to lead to a reduction in the amount of awards and secondly, would not be likely to lead to any reduction in insurance premiums, either.
The fact of the matter is that our laws and the concept of award of damages, particularly in serious cases, need looking at in this Oireachtas. They have not been looked at for a very long time. This problem will escalate and it is not confined to this country. It is common to most of the countries in the western world. The courts have taken cognisance of the fact that the amounts of awards in serious cases have escalated to a remarkably high level, causing in perhaps just a very few cases intense strain on the rate of insurance premiums. The Supreme Court, in particular, in a case within the last year or so, gave some thought to the question of providing a cap or maximum limit on the amount of what are described as non-economic damages. That is to say, while conceding that a person's loss of earnings, cost of medical and hospital expenses for the entire duration of the injury and into the future must be provided for, that when it comes to the question of general damages on top of that, some maximum figure must be applied, a so-called cap on those damages. Whether we like it or not, consideration will have to be given in this House to that question because this is a matter of law reform that falls properly within the ambit of the House. It is beyond the ambit of legislation by judges to bring this about. It is a subject that has aroused intense debate in the state legislature in the US. I have read an article which indicated that Bills are pending in most, if not all, the state legislatures, to provide a form of maximum amount of general damages that may be awarded by the courts in certain cases. That is a complex and difficult subject but it is one that we may not shy away from.
One small point in that connection that should be considered also by the House in reviewing the legislation is that provision should be made in the case of large awards for payment to be made by the insurance company, not in one immediate lump sum, but in instalments spread over a number of years. In many cases that would be to the advantage, not only of the insurance industry, but of the recipients because I have known of too many cases where lump sums were paid to people who did not have the experience of managing such amounts of money with the result that the moneys were dissipated all too quickly.
The insurance companies contribute to their own costs. There are four lawyers involved in these cases because the cases are allowed to go to court though the overwhelming bulk of them are settled at the doorstep of the court. There seems to be some unwillingness on the part of the insurance companies to settle cases early on and thereby save the costs involved in engaging two barristers as well as the other legal costs.
I am glad that most of the Government speakers have agreed with our motion. This motion sets out clearly what the position is. It is almost impossible for young drivers to find a motor insurance company who are willing to insure them. The reason for this is that only a small number of companies are engaged in motor insurance and only one of those have opened their doors to young and old alike. Many companies have discontinued motor insurance. In the past couple of years particularly, companies have been declining to renew motor insurance policies. That is a very serious position. I speak with good knowledge of the industry because I worked in insurance for many years. Not all the blame can be attributed to the legislation in this respect. Some of it rests with the insurance companies.
Regarding knock-on claims, there is an opportunity for companies to arrange to settle cases very quickly instead of going to court and thereby involving extensive legal costs. This should not happen. It is an area that must be given attention. Last year I asked the Minister if he would bring the insurance companies together to discuss this aspect. Eventually cases must be fixed anyway, but far too many cases reach the stage of court. This places a major burden on the companies because up to 20 per cent of the total amount involved in the claim will be spent on legal fees. That should not happen. This is a subject that the Minister should take up immediately with the insurance companies urging them to deal with this question effectively.
One must ask why in Circuit Court cases dealing with insurance claims there must be two barristers or in some cases three or four? Then if the case goes to the High Court there are senior counsel involved. After all that, the case might be settled on the steps of the court. This whole area should be considered. If a case can be resolved on the way into court surely it could have been resolved long before that point had been reached. Many of the claims concerned are very small and could be settled very quickly but some companies allow matters to proceed for up to 12 months. With inflation and so on, this involves them in much greater cost than if the cases were settled quickly.
The very high premiums being applied by insurance companies are causing job losses in the motor trade. It is interesting to note that in the month of March there was a 29 per cent drop in the sales of new cars. One must ask what caused this decrease. Many people in the motor trade to whom I have spoken believe that the high cost of motor insurance is the reason. A decrease in car sales represents a loss to the economy in terms of revenue and that is another factor that must be taken into consideration.
The Minister tells us that he is to ask the Garda to examine defects in motor cars from next month on. I do not believe that the Garda are equipped to take on this work. They may be able to help in regard to minor defects but not in regard to major defects. I submit that all cars of five years and over should be subject to an engineer's test and report before being insured. That is a fundamental point.
I wish to turn now to the question of the learner driver. A person holding a provisional licence only should not be allowed drive a car of 1000 cc or more while in the case of a motor cyclist holding a similar licence, the maximum capacity of the bike should be 150 cc. Such restrictions should help to reduce the number of accidents on the roads. The motoring public would be helped considerably if a measure were introduced to enable them to pay their premiums by way of monthly instalments. For many people a car is a necessity in terms of travelling to and from work. That factor should be borne in mind, too.
Some of the companies operating in the motor insurance market are not taking their fair share of young drivers but they should be made to do so. That is why I stated here last year that the Minister, as it is open to him to do, should bring all the insurance companies around the table and ask what they are doing in this respect. They cannot have all the cream and leave others to carry the can. In regard to insurance companies that are operated by the State now, the tab had to be taken up in the first instance by the taxpayer. While in some of the cases concerned management left a lot to be desired the fact remains that these companies had to carry a major burden in regard to what I would refer to as undesirable risks. If those risks were spread among all the companies, of which more than 20 are operating, there would be a lesser burden on these other companies. One must ask why that was not done?
I have a good knowledge of the underwriting procedure. In some companies that procedure left a lot to be desired but they were carrying risks that should have been spread among all the big companies such as Llyods and others. That is how one should operate and not hold on to risks which will result in high claims in respect of injuries. The demand on the Motor Insurers' Bureau is running extremely high. The uninsured driver is causing us a great problem. I was somewhat surprised by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, when he said that he could impose only so much of a fine on these people. Does that mean that if a person was drawing unemployment assistance, or whatever the case may be, that we have to go easy on the person? In other words, by implication this person after paying a fine of £10 would be back on the road again. That is not good enough and we cannot support that.
£10 to him would be the same as £100 to somebody else.
Yes, but does the Deputy support the uninsured driver who knocks down the innocent? I do not think the Deputy or anybody else in this House supports that. Deputy Kelly said I was trying to allege that Fianna Fáil, were in favour of nationalising insurance companies. We are not in favour of nationalising insurance companies and we have made that absolutely clear. What we are saying is that the insurance companies should get their act together. It is up to the Minister, as I stated earlier, to get the insurance companies together to see if they can work out a policy and take their fair share. There is nothing wrong with that, but at present there is only one company taking all the risk, three others in a selective way, while the others have closed the door. Can we stand for that? Can the Minister stand for that? I say he cannot and we in this House say he cannot. The motorist is asking that we do something about it.
I am glad that this evening the Government are putting some improvements in train, after we put down this motion. We welcome these, especially in regard to disabled drivers. I want to say also that we proposed that. I am glad that the Government are now coming round and seeing the light. We welcome any proposals put up which will improve the situation. We will give the Minister all the support that he wants in regard to that and we will be constructive.
There is a very substantial financial burden on the Motor Insurers' Bureau. The money raised in fines should be passed on to the bureau in order to help it out. Reliable people in the industry inform me that there are claims in the bureau for over £50 million. That is an enormous amount. Under the insurance Act the Motor Insurers' Bureau have to take up the tab in regard to personal injuries. We have to comply with that law. Therefore, I must say that the Garda must get a lead from Government in this respect. Because of their other duties the Garda are not able to do as much traffic duty as they would like. If they were able to there would be a substantial increase in fines and the number of uninsured motorists would be brought to our attention very quickly. The fines imposed by the courts should go to the bureau in order to cushion the effects and above all to cushion the effects on the taxpayer.
It is estimated that the unfortunate, hard-pressed, honest-to-God person who is trying to pay motor insurance by instalment or otherwise has to pay £70 or more to prop up the uninsured driver who has caused these accidents and crippled the bureau. I want to say that this debate has brought about a change of heart in the Government who have brought forward proposals. We welcome and support them. We are glad that we brought the Government out into the open and got them to do something in respect of it. I want to say that much will depend on the future.
The Deputy is suffering from self-delusion.
I am asking the Government to bring the insurance companies, there are over 20 operating in motor insurance, around the table to ask them to take their fair share of motor risk across the board. It can be done and the unfortunate motorist is asking the Government to do it. So, let us do it.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Barry, Myra.
- Begley, Michael.
- Bell, Michael.
- Bermingham, Joe.
- Birmingham, George Martin.
- Boland, John.
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Liam.
- Collins, Edward.
- Conlon, John F.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Coogan, Fintan.
- Cooney, Patrick Mark.
- Cosgrave, Liam T.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Coveney, Hugh.
- Creed, Donal.
- Crotty, Kieran.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Deasy, Martin Austin.
- Desmond, Eilecn.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- Molony, David.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Naughten, Liam.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East)
- O'Brien, Fergus.
- O'Brien, Willie.
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Leary, Michael.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Donnellan, John.
- Dowling, Dick.
- Doyle, Avril.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Glenn, Alice.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Harte, Patrick D.
- Hegarty, Paddy.
- Hussey, Gemma.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kelly, John.
- Kenny, Enda.
- L'Estrange, Gerry.
- McGahon, Brendan.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McLoughlin, Frank.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Prendergast, Frank.
- Quinn, Ruairí
- Ryan, John.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
- Skelly, Liam.
- Spring, Dick.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Yates, Ivan.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Paudge.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Collins, Gerard.
- Conaghan, Hugh.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Cathal Seán.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Daly, Brendan.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Fahey, Francis.
- Fahey, Jackie.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Foley, Denis.
- Gallagher, Denis.
- Gallagher, Pat Cope.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Charles J.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Michael.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Leonard, Tom.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- McCarthy, Seán.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- Mac Giolla, Tomás.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West)
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Dea, William.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Edmond.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- Ormonde, Donal.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- Power, Paddy.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Wilson, John P.
- Woods, Michael.