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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1991

Vol. 407 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Insurance Industry Report.

Bernard J. Durkan


17 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he will have the report on the insurance industry available to him for consideration; whether he intends to take any initiatives in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The recently established inter-ministerial group are examining ways and means of improving the environment for motor insurance. This group are focusing on strict and sustained enforcement of existing road traffic legislation, amendments to the Road Traffic Acts designed to reduce the motor accident rate, suggestions to improve the cost and availability of motor insurance and improvements or alternatives to the courts system for the resolution of personal injury claims. The implementation of any agreed measures will be a matter for the Ministers concerned, for example, the Minister for the Environment in relation to amendments to the Road Traffic Acts, and the Minister for Justice in relation to enforcement and for measures related to improving the operations of the courts.

I am hopeful that the group may be in a position to report to Government on proposed measures within a matter of a month or two. I would add, however, that Government action of itself will not reduce or stabilise motor insurance costs. The general public, including motorists, must play their part by increased awareness of the need for road safety.

May I ask the Minister whether the information requested in my earlier question will be made available to that group who are studying the industry, and will the reasons, or most oft repeated reasons, for motor accidents and consequent motor accident insurance claims be taken into account in arriving at one of the major factors for increased claims?

All available information and statistics are being made available to the group concerned to whom I have referred and certainly will be taken into account by them so far as that information is available, but it is not as widely available as the Deputy might expect or might consider desirable. Because of a huge number of claims in this country which run into hundreds of thousands each year, it really is impossible to have information on individual claims. Companies have to average it but even on the averaging the information is disturbing when you see the increase in the incidence of claims and at the same time the extraordinary increase in the cost of individual claims.

A final question. Two Deputies are offering.

Will the Minister accept that when his Department require information, it is absolutely imperative that all the necessary information available in the country be made available to his Department, as the supervising body, that being a prerequisite to doing anything about the industry?

I am satisfied that all the information is made available to us when it is requested. It sometimes happens that some of the information we require is not available and we have asked the companies in those instances to get the information. Sometimes they tell us it is very costly to do it and sometimes it may take a year to get it, but in fairness to a number of the companies, I have to say that they have come up with this information even though it has taken some time. A year and a half ago I discovered that companies did not have as many statistics on claims as I would have wished and I thought necessary in order to try to cope with the problems that were arising, but much more of that information is now available.

Thank you, Sir, for allowing me a brief supplementary. Does the Minister intend taking any action with the latest insurance company who are proposing a 10 per cent increase from 1 May, in view of the precedent laid down by his predecessor who intervened when an increase was proposed in 1989 in the run up to a general election?

There is no price control on insurance premiums and I cannot intervene. The companies inform me of what they propose to do as a matter of courtesy, but I cannot stop them. My figures show there was on average decreases in motor premiums in 1989 and the previous year.

Does the Minister accept that the Minister, Deputy Brennan, intervened to ask the Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance to forego any increase?

I am confident that whatever the Minister, Deputy Brennan, did was quite proper and if Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance at the time decreased their premiums, it was in accordance with what was then the fairly general practice of the industry. Unfortunately the pendulum has now swung the other way.

That disposes of questions for today.

On a point of order, Sir, I have just been advised that you have decided to disallow a Private Notice Question from me concerning the ongoing ESB dispute. Following on your decision this morning to disallow a debate in this House on that matter, it is extraordinary that——

Deputy Rabbitte, I have conveyed my decision to you and to other Deputies and it is quite disorderly to challenge my ruling in this fashion in the House.

If this is not a matter of public interest that warrants discussion in this House——

Deputy Rabbitte, I have nothing to add to what I have already said on this matter. It was the subject of five Private Notice Questions yesterday.

On a point of order, Sir, I got the same notice back and I do not question your ruling.

This is not a point of order. It is on the same subject. It is a point of disorder.

This morning power lines have broken down. Since the ESB maintenance staff are not passing the pickets, there are communities who do not have the benefit of the rostering system that others enjoy. Now there are people all over the country without power. If I cannot raise that matter in this House——

No, Deputy, not now.

——I do not know what relevance it is.

It is a reasonable question. If this matter is not encompassed by Standing Order 30, what conceivably is?

Please resume your seat.

It is clear that the law of the jungle is operating. Nobody appears to be prepared to do anything about it.