Adjournment Debate Matters. - Motor Insurance Industry Report: Statements (Resumed).

As I have only one minute left, the final point I make is to caution against the capping of awards in personal injury cases. That should not be treated in an arbitrary or less than fulsome manner as to do so would have huge consequences. We introduce such caps at our peril and I am not sure they would be in the public interest. I would rather see reform of the law relating to compensation for personal injuries. Bogus claims will have to be tackled and I would like to see the introduction of a criminal offence for those parties who engage in the perpetration of bogus or fraudulent claims on the insurance industry.

The courts system should be technologically fully up to date. A statutory scheme should be introduced for structured settlements in very serious cases where there are serious injuries. I would like to see the empowering of the presidents of the various courts to setting down guidelines because the inconsistency or lottery is much more urgent than the actual quantum involved. New procedural rules should be prescribed for civil litigation to encourage early settlement because the costs involved are generated by the delays. The process needs to be speeded up which is why the setting up of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board is urgently required. I do not think the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, or his colleagues have the political will to do this. This should be done in cases where liability is not an issue and where there can be an independent determination of compensation. It should also be done on a phased basis. Initially the board when set up should deal with motor accident claims. There is no reason this should be delayed.

While I welcome the report, it indicates proof, if proof were needed, that the Government has wasted five years on undertaking important initiatives. It is now hiding behind the report which, with the greatest respect to all involved, does not come up with anything terribly new, even though it requires absolute evidence of many things that were in the public arena by way of suspicion, principally that drivers, particularly young drivers under the age of 30, have been fleeced by insurance companies over the years with no justification.

The report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board deserves to be one of those publications that, in their relevant field, should usher in thoroughgoing and radical change. In the field of general Irish economic policy, for example, Ken Whitaker's Economic Development is today seen as precisely such a document. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say of the Dowling report that it should lead to a radical reshaping of motor insurance. Whether it will is another issue because, in the end, that depends on the Government. It depends on the extent to which the Government adopts fully and implements comprehensively the programme prescribed in the report.

The portents are not good. Never in the history of the State has a Government done so little to address the worsening insurance crisis. Now, at literally the 12th hour, the Minister concerned draws on all the resources of spin and presentation to somehow associate himself with the Dowling report and identify himself with the analysis and findings which he spent five years resisting. Question Time after Question Time, as Deputy Flanagan will bear out, he rhymed off the same answers as follows. Because of the high incidence of accidents and claims among young drivers nothing could be done. That was the standard reply. The Dowling report shows the word processor got it wrong. As recently as today in the Shelbourne Hotel, 14 major business associations announced the formation of an alliance "to tackle once and for all the continuing crisis in the insurance industry."

While the Dowling report is confined to a specific area of the insurance business, it raises a more general question. Why should we take it that the profiteering that characterises the motor business is confined to that line of business? Frankly it stretches credulity to accept or assume that the creaming by vested interests referred to in the report, the waste, inefficiency and profiteering that is highlighted in the case of motor insurance, is unique to that class of insurance. The experiences of public undertakings and private firms in relation to employer and public liability suggest that almost the entire industry requires to be investigated to establish whether the public expenditure allocations and the hard earned incomes of such services and businesses goes towards excessive and always rising premiums. That was certainly the view this morning in the Shelbourne Hotel of the 14 business associations that came together. All of them are extremely concerned about the escalating cost of insurance premiums wider than motor insurance, including employers' liability, the collapse of Independent Insurance Company Limited, with which we dealt previously, the impact feeding through into the economy of 11 September, the inability to get reinsurers from Britain and so on.

There are many businesses, not just small business, whicih feel this is a serious impediment to their continuing in business in some cases and to the expansion of employment in other cases. They do not see any sign of that improving. They judge that from the performance in recent years these issues have not been addressed. We should ask why we think the exploitation highlighted in the Dowling report stops with this type of underwriting and does not extend to the life and savings businesses, for example. There is every possibility the savings schemes and life policies are equally about living high off the hog at the expense of savers, short changing them, cheating and mis-selling.

It is claimed by the Government that the new, single financial services regulator will have the powers, resources and statutory duty to effectively regulate the insurance industry, to clean out the Augean stable so to speak. The Minister who for five years had responsibility for policy in this area did nothing and now claims ownership of the advisory board's report. After five years of inaction, as Deputy Flanagan said, he has announced an action programme, on the eve of his leaving office. There has been a referral to the Competition Authority and the Equality Authority. There are to be new disclosure requirements. A high level implementation group is to be established to rapidly implement the recommendations of the MIAB report.

Deputy Flanagan raised a good point. Surely there must have been some recommendations among the 61 which the Minister could have proceeded to implement. Surely the Department and he long had sight of the way the Dowling report was going. He received a couple of interim reports and he had been studying the issue. He knew the way Ms Dowling was thinking. He knew about the claims of allegations of obstruction against the industry. He must have been aware of some of the recommendations and findings that would be made, yet rather than take action he chose to set up a committee. It would have been more convincing if the group had been buttressed by the implementation of at least some of the findings.

The Minister proposes to refer recommendations to the Equality Authority and the Competition Authority. We might say "well done" but for the fact that we are aware of the Minister's record, that is, one of stalling on the implementation of the McAuley report's recommendation in respect of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, of attempted suppression of the interim report of the MIAB, dragged out under the Freedom of Information Act, and of procrastination in regard to the final report of the advisory board. The Minister's inaction has not been confined to the area of motor insurance. In the fields of employer and public liability the Minister has been equally inactive.

In a private Members' debate on the insurance crisis, initiated in this House by the Labour Party in February this year, Deputies from all sides of the House, on the basis of representations made to them, conveyed the depth and extent of the crisis. The Labour Party motion called on the Tanáiste to provide funding for the Equality Authority to carry out a statutory inquiry into widespread and repeated allegations of discrimination by the motor insurance industry against young drivers on the basis of age and gender.

On 29 March, 2001, I set out this proposal in a letter to the chief executive of the Equality Authority. This demand, made no more than a couple of months ago, was rejected by the Government. Now, two months on, the Minister announces there is to be such a referral. How is that consistent? The Labour Party motion also called for a thorough investigation by the Competition Authority into the general insurance market. Again, the motion was rejected by the Government. Now, two months later on the eve of an election, the Minister announces such an investigation will take place, but only into motor insurance. The motion also called on the Government to develop alternative dispute resolution in the insurance area as well as the implementation of case management by the courts. Now, we learn yet again of the imminent arrival of the personal injuries board.

I was struck by the language used by the Minister in his script on this issue. It is not fair to Members on this side of the House, that the Minister of State, as a democratic and long serving Member of this House, should avoid all questions on this issue and simply rhyme off the mantra from the word processor every time. This House deserves an answer on the question of the personal injuries tribunal. We have asked the Minister, on several occasions, why a tribunal recommended by McAuley in May 1997 has not been implemented five years later. There may be a good reason it has not been implemented; there may be obstruction to it from the legal profession and so on. Five years is a long time to permit obstruction. I do not know if Deputy Flanagan noted the language used by the Minister in his script which states:

With the personal injuries assessment board report nearing completion [another report nearing completion] a speedy Government response in due course to what will emerge, including taking a strong stance on any hostile reactions..

That is not written like that for no reason. There is no personal injuries assessment board, we have a report nearing completion. I am sure the Minister of State will be preoccupied with other things around Ahascragh and Loughrea besides the completion of this report. The Minister said the Government will take "a speedy Government response in due course to what will emerge including taking a strong stance on any hostile reactions". That is an amazing statement when the entire industry and everybody concerned about this issue has been led to believe the personal injuries assessment board is up and running. It now turns out that somebody is doing a report on it. It is not completed. I know the Minister of State has an optimistic outlook on life but giving a commitment to do something next October or December demonstrates great confidence that he will be in the same position after the election. I do not understand this and the House is entitled to a response in this regard.

Mr. Dan McAuley brought forward this proposal five years ago and here we are, nothing done. We know the contribution the myriad of low awards makes to the cost of insurance. Costs, in some individual cases, are higher than the awards. The notion here was that where liability was uncontested this board could deal with it by rote, more speedily, less expensively and out of the court system.

In and out.

In and out. There may be an explanation for this although I cannot conceive of it. We have not heard it and we are entitled to know.

For at least the last three years, there has been a growing focus on the problem in respect of the industry's treatment of customers, whether motorists, businesses, public services or households. The stream of complaints and anecdotes, studies and recommendations, representations and surveys has been continuous. The volume of evidence generated by this, if brought together, would fill a large warehouse. In particular, the Minister has come under severe pressure in recent years from young drivers who have been carrying a hugely disproportionate burden. The Government and this Minister did nothing in the face of this until the last minute when it was about to dash to the country.

This is a Government that has frittered away so many fruits of the boom and for five years has done nothing in so many important areas not least in respect of insurance, including motor insurance.

The country owes a debt to Ms Dorothea Dowling and her board although I doubt the Minister, the insurance division of his Department or the insurance companies would be inclined to agree. We owe Ms Dowling a debt on at least two scores. First, she has put beyond doubt the veracity of thousands of complaints made by ordinary citizens over the years in respect of motor insurance which highlights the desirability for a completely independent insurance ombudsman. I am not reflecting on the current occupant of the post but we remember the circumstances in which the previous occupant departed that position. It is quite clear from the Dowling Report that we ought not to have gone along with that. Second, her report contains many new facts and is a most comprehensive and rigorous piece of work. I do not intend to go through the report in detail. However, I draw attention to some quite remarkable facts that are, to me at least, new.

Let us address the issue of uninsured driving. This phenomenon is, we are told incessantly by the insurance companies, a scourge that adds significantly to insurance costs in Ireland. I tended to believe that. It is, but what does the Dowling Report tell us about this? It tells us the problem is, in part, of the company's making. I refer to page 11 of the report, executive summary paragraphs 29 and 31 which says:

The mention of uninsured driving would most likely prompt the public to think of some one who owns a car but has not bothered to pay a premium. In fact, both the car and the driver may hold insurance policies but be involved in an accident where there is no valid insurance. For example, many people would not hesitate to lend their insured car to a friend whose own insured car has broken down. They may not realise that restricted policy terms may result in any subsequent accident being uninsured. Even if a comprehensive policy with a "driving other cars" extension is held by the borrower, that extension applies only to the third party cover in respect of claimants alleging injury or property damage and would not extend to cover damage to the lender's vehicle. Many years ago vehicle insurance was regularly offered on an "open driving" basis but such cover is now extremely rare for private policyholders. Consumers might expect that the extent of their insurance cover would be obvious from the wording of their insurance certificate. In fact, the contractual document is the insurance policy and failure to check the wording carefully could result in mistakenly driving without insurance—

I do not think a great many consumers know that. Paragraph 31 states:

A major disparity with the remainder of Europe is the fact that in Ireland, and the UK, motor insurance is based on driver use rather than on the vehicle itself with usage being secondary to issues of cover. That variation partly accounts for the higher levels of "uninsured" driving quoted for Ireland which includes cases where there was a policy in force on the vehicle but the indemnity is defective. This issue is covered under uninsured driving in the chapter on Claims Costs. It is recommended that detailed consideration be given to amending the Road Traffic Acts to require insurance on the vehicle, as in mainland Europe, rather than allowing denials of indemnity on the basis of the driver's use but with appropriate measures to address the rights of insurers where premiums have been underpaid.

In fact, it would appear that uninsured driving is in decline. It is stated to be unlikely to be as much as 5%; it may be of the order of between 3% and 4% and in any event is down considerably on the figure of 6.5% recorded in 1991which is down on the figure of 7.7%. What time is available to me, Sir?

I have a great deal more to say about it.

The Deputy can preserve it for the next Dáil when he will probably be on the other side.

I cannot be that presumptuous but if I am, I promise in whatever capacity to raise it. It is the kind of issue, given the extent of public concern, not just confined to motor insurance that is ideally suited to investigation by an all-party committee of the House. Like the DIRT inquiry this report could be taken as the book of evidence, so to speak. The Dowling report is equivalent, or similar or analogous to the report carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General in respect of the tax evasion issue and, therefore, it could be used as the basis for detailed examination by a subcommittee of the House that goes much wider than motor insurance. That would not be to excuse the Government of the day, whatever the complexion of that Government, from proceeding to implement quickly the recommendations of this report. I do not know if the Minister of State said the implementation board will report to him within three months.

From today.

Three months from today. Is it appointed and up and running and are there humans on it?

I am sorry the Deputy missed my speech this morning.

I watched every minute of it on the monitor as I usually do because, as the Minister of State is aware, I am one of his ardent fans. However, I did not hear him say who was appointed to the implementation board.

I announced all of them.

I thank the Minister of State. I am glad to hear that and I hope it will be implemented within that time frame.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House on the report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board. As the Taoiseach said here last week, this report is the product of more than three years' hard work and it is important that the issues it raises are debated in the Dáil. These are matters which are of major significance to the motorist and to the general public through the knock on effects which high insurance costs can have on the community.

This report is, by any standards, atour de force in terms of the data it presents and the comprehensive nature of its analysis. It gives the reader new insights into the workings of the insurance market in Ireland and presents information which was not previously available to the public. Significantly also, it points us towards the action we need to take to alleviate the unacceptably high burden which the insured motorist is asked to bear. Little wonder then that it has aroused such extensive public interest in the past week and it is appropriate that this debate is taking place here today.

The Government, for its part, has responded with the utmost speed to the publication of this report. At our meeting on 10 April, we approved the establishment of a high level implementation group representative of the relevant Departments, the Consumer Association of Ireland and IBEC together with the chairperson of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board to immediately progress the recommendations and to report to Government not later than three months' time. The group held its first meeting this morning. Therefore, there is no question of the report being left to lie around with no action taken on its recommendations. On the contrary, these recommendations will be examined in the relevant Departments to see in what way it might be appropriate to give effect to them.

Of the 67 recommendations made by the MIAB, some 16 might be said to be of relevance to my Department and I now turn to those. As it happens, some of these recommendations have been overtaken to an extent by recent events.

One example of this is recommendation No. 42 which is to the effect that the legislation on accrual of 8% interest on legal costs from date of trial should be revised in a manner consistent with the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act with a significantly reduced rate of interest and a reasonable period allowed from the date of bill presentation for payment or the resolution of legitimate queries. Section 30 of the Courts and Court Officers Act, 2002, responds to this recommendation in that it provides for changes in the manner in which the interest on costs associated with judgment debts is calculated. In particular, it provides for the application of a rate of 2% per annum from the date a judgment is given to the date when the parties agree costs as between themselves, or the date a certificate of taxation issues, which is appropriate. Thereafter, the interest applicable to judgment debts, 8%, will apply to the outstanding costs until that amount of costs is paid.

I am aware of the view of the MIAB, expressed in its report, that no interest should be payable until a reasonable period has expired after presentation of the solicitor's bill but it must also be acknowledged that the changes made by the Courts and Court Officers Act, which are already in force and which apply even where the proceedings in question were instituted before the Act was passed, represent a considerable improvement on the position up to now. As regards the continued application of an 8% interest rate to legal costs after they are agreed by the parties or determined either by the taxing master or the county registrar, while this rate may appear high by reference to interest rates generally, it must be borne in mind that the charging of interest has the purpose of encouraging prompt payment by the liable party. When that is an insurance company, I see little justification for delays in paying the sums due either to the plaintiff in the form of damages or to his or her legal representatives in respect of their costs.

A further recommendation which has been responded to in part is No. 43 to the effect that the draft legislation on advertising by solicitors should be progressed. This legislation, the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 2002, was enacted on 13 April. The provisions on advertising require a commencement order to be brought into force and this order will be made when regulations to fill out the detail of what is provided for in the Act are prepared by the Law Society. Commencement of these provisions is a priority as far as I am concerned.

This recommendation, and recommendation No. 44, propose a requirement that all advertisements by solicitors quote a summary of section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994, which provides that solicitors are prohibited from calculating their charges as a percentage of any damages that become payable. I am of the view that it would be of benefit to draw the attention of the public to this important rule, as its existence may not be widely known, and I will consult the Law Society to see if regulations could be made to implement this proposal.

Recommendation No. 57 is to the effect that the Courts Bill should be amended so as not to increase the civil jurisdictions of the Circuit and District courts beyond expressing the existing figures in convenient euro amounts. This Bill is now an Act, the Courts and Court Officers Act, 2002, but requires a commencement order to raise the jurisdiction limit of the Circuit Court from £30,000 to €100,000 and that of the District Court from £5,000 to €20,000.

While by no means dismissing the view of the MIAB that increasing the jurisdiction limits will increase awards and settlements, it is reasonable to suggest that it is somewhat speculative. I am not sure that decisions as to the courts in which cases shall be taken – whether District, Circuit or High – are not matters in which clients have no say. Clients will know that, as a general rule, the lower the court, the lower the costs and they will also know, certainly from this report, that legal costs represent a sizeable proportion of the overall cost of road accident associated damages. I do not believe increased jurisdiction limits mean increased claims and increased damages awards. There can certainly be no justification for leaving the limits completely unchanged, apart from translating them into euros. Consumer prices have risen by about 30% since the limits were previously set in 1991.

Inasmuch as damages compensate for such elements as loss of earnings, more expensive vehicles etc. which reflect rapid real economic growth, it could be argued that consumer price inflation does not fully mirror the increase in damages during this period. This means that leaving jurisdiction limits unchanged would have the effect over time of pushing cases of a given level of seriousness into higher courts with higher costs and negative implications for access to justice. For example, I do not consider that a case involving a claim for the equivalent of just more than £30,000 should be dealt with in the highest court of first instance in the land. The increased jurisdictions will also enhance access to justice in the sense that District and Circuit courts are courts of local jurisdiction located conveniently to those members of the public who need to have recourse to them. I must, therefore, reluctantly beg to differ with the board on this issue.

In considering the jurisdiction levels of these courts, I met representatives of IBEC and the Irish Insurance Federation. I noted their concerns about the possible effects of the proposed increases in the jurisdictions but stressed to them the need to have regard to the interests of all court users and my anxiety to ensure people have access to court at the lowest possible cost. Courts are there to serve the public. It is important that the public has the cheapest possible access to the courts. In this regard increasing the jurisdictions of the District and Circuit courts can only serve to assist the public.

The general jurisdiction provisions in the Act will not come into force until I make a commencement order to that effect. Consideration of the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which should have a significant impact on the number of cases that go to court, is well advanced under the aegis of the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy. I informed the representatives of IBEC and the Irish Insurance Federation that consideration will be given to co-ordinating the commencement of the jurisdiction provisions with the coming into operation of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

There are a number of recommendations in the report which require consideration by the Courts Service. In this regard, I understand the board of the Courts Service has decided to table consideration of the report of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board at its next meeting.

I will be interested to have the views of the Courts Service board on such matters as specialist judges, an extended role for the small claims court and the introduction of a book of quantum. I am prepared to act quickly on any recommendations I get from the board for legislative amendment as necessary.

The MIAB makes a range of other recommendations affecting my area of ministerial responsibility. Of those, I will briefly refer to a few. As Deputies will observe, these proposals would require legislation and, for that reason alone, they require careful consideration before any Bill is brought before the House. This consideration will commence with the work of the implementation group established by the Government.

In recommendation number 47, the MIAB proposes that stringent measures should be introduced to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims for the loss of all compensation entitlements and appropriate criminal sanctions should be imposed. I caution that any measures to deal with exaggerated claims would have to be proportional to the wrong one seeks to rectify.

In recommendation number 50, the MIAB proposes that the system of lump sum compensation payments should be reviewed on the basis that long-term needs of the seriously injured may be better served by guaranteed annual payments. Recommendation number 51 proposes that a system should be introduced to facilitate pre-trial interim payments to the seriously injured in cases where liability is not a substantial issue but there is a financial need to replace lost earnings or seek medical treatment. Recommendation number 52 proposes the introduction of awards of provisional damages where there is a substantial risk that the injured party's medical condition may deteriorate in the future.

The latter three recommendations concern issues which have been the subject of a 1996 report of the Law Reform Commission, the recommendations of which have not been addressed by my Department to date due to the substantial programme of legislation in which we were in engaged over the past number of years. The Law Reform Commission proposed that there should be a system of structured settlements to replace the award of damages in the form of lump sums and that there should be provision for interim and provisional awards in certain conditions. Significantly, however, the commission recommended no change in the way awards of damages are calculated by the courts. In other words, these changes would perhaps deliver compensation in a more appropriate way while being neutral in their effect on the aggregate amount of compensation paid in the long-term.

Much comment has been made before and after the publication of this report on the role of the legal profession in relation to litigation and insurance costs. It is of significance that the Government, as part of its response to a report by the OECD on regulatory reform in Ireland which was published in April 2001, asked the Competition Authority to undertake a study of professional services. Among the professions being studied by the authority is the legal profession and I await, with interest, that report.

There has also been media comment about the attitude of the Law Society to the work of the MIAB, as described in the report. This is a matter for the society, but it is a cause of regret when any important regulatory and representative body does not lend its assistance to a committee which is mandated by the Government or a Minister to investigate a matter of major public concern. Most people will not, however, consider it a major cause of surprise that the body, which has the task of representing the interests of solicitors, should be cautious and find itself drawn in different directions when it comes to the scrutiny of matters that bear directly on its members' interests. Rather than focus on the approach adopted by the Law Society in this instance, it is more important to confirm that the Government is determined to act on this report.

The reform of the law on personal injuries is being kept under review in my Department in consultation with other Departments, particularly having regard to the perceived growth of a compensation culture in our society. The report of the MIAB provides further impetus to the consideration of the law in this area, as if affects claims arising from motor accidents and the recommendations in the report give us guidance on the most useful avenues to explore in our quest for a better system. I caution, however, that persons who are the victims of the negligence of others are entitled to have their rights vindicated by the payment of appropriate compensation and this principle must be respected in any reforms we introduce. We must at the same time endeavour to ensure that compensation is delivered to those who are entitled to it in the most efficient way possible.

A recent letter inThe Irish Times stated that the new monument of light in O'Connell Street should not be called “the spike” but “the long finger” because that title best represented the attitude of Dublin Corporation on many matters. It could well represent the attitude of the Government because it has put many issues on the long finger, this being one such issue.

As Deputy Rabbitte said, there have been previous reports on this matter such as the McAuley report. Deputy Rabbitte also referred to the personal injuries tribunal, with which the Minister just confirmed he will deal. We are talking about the Government record on insurance over the past five years during which it has become a major issue, particularly for young drivers.

The Green Party is fully committed to making life better for young drivers and for all those people who essentially, to use a colloquial phrase, have been ripped off and exploited. I congratulate Dorothea Dowling for exposing this exploitation. Young motorists have been ripped off and exploited because of vested interests. That is what this report makes clear. It also makes clear the failure of successive Governments to stand up to these vested interests. There are two main bodies in question, the insurance industry and the legal profession. Ms Dowling states in the report that the problem is not accidents; the problem is the cost of claims. Legal expenses, including expert witnesses, now account for just under 40% of the cost of claims and the figure can be even higher in the case of small claims. According to the MIAB, fees can average 72% of the compensation paid out on claims of £5,000 or less.

The major reason legal costs are so high is the extensive use of barristers in even the most minor cases. About 60% of insurance cases here are resolved with the involvement of barristers while the comparative figure in the UK is less than 1%. Some 52% of insurance cases in the UK are settled directly between solicitors and insurance companies. That is why it is necessary to highlight and address this matter. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who has left the Chamber, is a solicitor and many other Members of the House come from a legal background and are either solicitors or barristers. Perhaps that is the reason we have always failed to take on that vested interest. I read in Noel Browne's biography many years ago that when he set out with his grand vision to reform the legal profession, he was told, in blunt terms, by one of his colleagues, "you don't touch the law". There has rightly been a split between politics and the Judiciary, but we are the ones who are vested with the power to tackle this problem and we have failed to do so. When I say "we", I refer particularly to those in Government. The ball is very much in the Government's court. It has to do the business.

My party discussed this issue in detail at our party conference. One of my colleagues, councillor Paul Gogarty, who is a young driver said that this issue is a major problem. Deputy Flanagan this morning cited the example of a person who bought a car worth about £1,000 and the cost of insuring it was in the region of £7,000. That level of insurance premium is not unheard of; in fact, it is quite common. The other day I spoke to a man aged about 30 years of age who is paying a motor insurance premium of €3,000. It has got to the stage where people have become cynical and outraged by what is going on.

We can consider the position in other countries. We talked about the question of uninsured vehicles. That does not happen in New Zealand because the cost of insurance there is included in the price of petrol. Simple measures could be taken to improve the position. It is outrageous that a young motorist who is a named driver and has not had an accident for five years is expected to pay such a high level of premium.

One of the recommendations at our conference was the introduction of a voluntary R plate scheme, which would reduce considerably motor premia for young drivers. If we implemented the recommendations in the report, insurance costs would decrease for all motorists. We need to pay special attention to the motorists aged between 17 and 24 years of age. The myth in respect of that category of motorist must be nailed. I tried to raise that on "Questions and Answers" the other night when a representative from the insurance industry claimed that the industry is making a loss on that category of motorist. That is not true. The report makes it clear that in respect of motorists aged between 17 and 24 years of age, there is an annual profit of €160 per driver. That is the reality and that is what Dorothea Dowling said in her report. For that reason, I urge the Minister of State to do everything he can to improve the position of young motorists. This is the last full day of this Dáil and, hopefully, a new far-seeing Administration, which will not put matters on the long finger, will be in power following the election. Whoever is in power must tackle this scandalous problem. We in the Green Party are committed to tackling it.

(Dublin West): The Motor Insurance Advisory Board report is to be warmly welcomed for its clarity and the forthright way it sets out its analysis and conclusions. I have only read the executive summary so far because the full report will take a considerable amount of time to study in detail. However, based on that executive summary, the report has the ring of integrity about it and in ways it is an extraordinary and unusual report in the forthright way it sets out its analysis and recommendations.

Frankly, the report amounts to a damning indictment of the motor insurance industry and makes clear we are in the hands of a cartel which has sown up the motor insurance industry. The Minister of State pointed out that there are just five insurance companies now compared to 17 in the market in 1993. There is no doubt whatsoever that there are understandings between the big five as to how they operate their codes of practice, premiums etc.

The letter from Ms Dorothea Dowling, the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, to the Minister of State is remarkable in many ways. No responsibility can be ascribed to Ms Dowling for my interpretation of her feelings in this letter, which is a model of understated anger, to put it mildly, or even perhaps contempt for sections of the motor insurance industry for the way in which it approached this examination and the way in which it patently failed to co-operate with the examination and the board set up to look at the industry. She instanced that, in front of an Oireachtas committee of which I am a member, representatives of the Irish Insurance Federation rubbished the so-called unreliable data on which some initial findings were based. What was rubbished was the raw data supplied by the federation itself, as Ms Dowling points out.

We should pay particular heed to some of the sentences in the report's executive summary regarding the reluctance of the insurance cartels to co-operate with the examination set up by the State on behalf of the people. The summary states that it "has not been this board's experience that insurers have willingly provided all material information in the fulsome manner which the Minister is entitled to expect would be accorded to a body established under his authority." The report goes on to state that board members "cannot avoid the conclusion that many insurers did not willingly provide essential hard data and/or did not do so in a timely, conscientious and co-operative manner." I am surprised the Minister of State did not make ringing criticisms of the lack of co-operation from the insurance cartels with the board he set up to render a service to the people.

These statements are made in a more understated and dignified way than I would make them and the board found it extremely difficult to get co-operation and to obtain figures on which it could base an accurate assessment of the situation. It begs the question, why the reluctance? Some of the findings of the report show precisely why that reluctance existed. The companies wanted to cover up the real situation within the motor insurance industry and the fact that it is ten to 11 times more profitable than its British counterpart, for example. When that truth came out it gave the lie to the poor mouth the insurance cartels have been putting on for the past year or two since this issue came strongly into public focus. That is the reason, the industry was self-serving.

Another statement in the report is startling for its honesty and because it is troubling: "It is difficult to have any great confidence that the high cost of insurance will alter radically in the near future, as the current situation suits too many interests." The interests outlined are the insurers, the legal profession and the State. The report fears that there will not be change because those three vested interests will block reform for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of consumers. That would be very serious if it were allowed to stand. It means in essence that the vested interests of a tiny minority would continue to see the exploitation of the majority to serve the profits of the insurance companies and the already bloated incomes of the legal profession. It is an incredible finding that litigation costs add 40% to every euro paid in compensation for injuries sustained in motor accidents. That is an incredible statistic.

It is clear that a small minority of interests have sown up the legal profession, a closed shop open for the most part to the most privileged minority in society and which successive Governments and the big parties will not take on – they have many members of the legal profession in their ranks and among their supporters. That contrasts with their attitude to secondary teachers or nurses, who find they must take action to protect their rights. The Minister of State should state clearly what he makes of that sentence in the report. Will he say that situation will alter radically because the vested interests will be taken on? That is what the ordinary driver wants to see.

Apart from motorists generally, young drivers have been particularly discriminated against. This is also borne out in the report and there is a fundamental issue of natural justice here. Young drivers should not be condemned when they sit behind the wheel of a car before their record is known or before they are involved in accidents.

Many young people are responsible drivers and need their cars for employment and for social reasons, particularly in rural areas. Such people have to be regarded in the same light as any other citizen and given a level playing pitch in terms of premiums. If people offend they can be penalised. However, it is unjust to penalise good and responsible drivers in the interests of the profits of insurance companies. I am glad that young drivers have found a voice through the motor insurance justice action group which has spear-headed their interests and complaints. Public representatives are being obliged to hear this voice during this general election. This is a positive development.

The report contains 67 recommendations, some of which are useful. I highlight the recommendation regarding the introduction of a road safety and driver education syllabus in schools. This proposal should be put in train immediately to provide young drivers with the necessary skills before they take to the roads, to educate them as to their responsibilities, the nature of the vehicle in which they sit and control and its potential for devastation if abused. Such things should be taught in a practical manner and not through books or videos, and should be included in the curriculum. A qualification in, and knowledge of, driving and safety procedures could then be a basis for obtaining a just premium and not one charging thousands of euro as is the case at present.

The motor insurance industry cartel should be taken into public ownership. It should not be left for the most part to private, faceless people to exploit and control such a significant sector of the economy which has a real effect on people's lives. The industry should be in public ownership and run under the democratic control of consumers, the workers in the industry and State representatives. The industry should be the subject of root and branch reform including the premia demanded, the manner in which accident claims are regulated and compensation payments. This should be done in the interests of people rather than the vested interests.

Will the Minister of State tell the House what he will do to take on these interests to ensure that we are not back here at the end of the next Dáil with a similar litany of woes regarding the manner in which the motor insurance industry is rigged?

I welcome the publication of the MIAB report on motor insurance and congratulate and thank the board for a comprehensive and detailed report which obviously involved much hard work. Eight of the 67 recommendations in the report relate to the area of responsibility of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey.

The publication of the report is timely in that it follows the recent passage through the Oireachtas of the Road Traffic Act, 2002. That Act contains a range of measures to be delivered within the policy parameters established in the Government's road safety strategy. That strategy presented for the first time a co-ordinated approach to the pursuit of specified goals regarding road safety nationally. It set challenging targets in terms of reducing road deaths and serious injuries and it is clear that, as a result of the pursuit of the policies set forth in the strategy, significant progress has been achieved in realising those targeted goals. However, the strategy must not just be seen in the context of those targets. Its greatest strength is the fact that it promoted a series of policy initiatives that will encourage a changed approach to driving and to the need for a greater appreciation of safety.

There is clear evidence that the commitment of the Garda in carrying out its enforcement role has yielded results. Detection of drink driving offences in 2001 was 53% higher than in 1998, on-the-spot fine notices for not wearing seat belts, introduced in 1999, were issued in respect of 59,000 people in 2000 and 64,000 in 2001, and on-the-spot fine notices for speeding offences issued in 2001 are 165% higher than in 1998.

The provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 2002, will further augment and support the enforcement of traffic legislation. The introduction of penalty points, the replacement of the on-the-spot fine system with the more structured and certain system of fixed charges and the extended use of cameras to assist in the detection of offences will help to further promote the precautionary approach to driving that will lead to sustained improvement in road safety. The Act will also specifically extend the preliminary breath testing of drivers where they are involved in a road accident or a breach of road traffic law. It will also provide a framework for implementing the European convention on driving disqualification which permits the imposition by member states of driving disqualification for offences committed in another member state and it will increase certain financial penalties for road traffic offences.

There is no reason Ireland should not rank among the best states in Europe in terms of road safety and the new Act, together with the application of the other initiatives in the strategy, will progress our realisation of that goal.

The driver theory test has been operational since 11 June 2001 and tests knowledge of topics such as the rules of the road, risk perception, hazard awareness and good driving behaviour. This test should encourage a deeper understanding by novice drivers of information and behaviours that will assist them to become safe drivers.

As regards the driver testing service, I am pleased that we have met our customer service target of ten weeks. The average waiting time for a driving test is ten weeks or less. This is a significant achievement in the face of a continuing and unprecedented high level of demand for the service and is the result of significant additional resources allocated to the driver testing service by this Government.

The recommendations in the report call for the introduction of a road safety and driver education syllabus in schools. The question of introducing such a syllabus in schools is a matter for the Minister for Education and Science and is currently being examined by the National Council for Curriculum Assessment which has commissioned a study of the issue at the request of the Minister for Education and Science.

In the area of driver education generally, the National Safety Council has launched special educational programmes for primary and second ary schools and major publicity campaigns targeting drink driving, seat belt wearing and speeding have been produced.

A number of the recommendations deal with the relationship between compulsory motor insurance requirements in this country and the four EU directives on the topic. The particular recommendations make a number of salient points about ways in which the position of victims of road accidents might be improved. My Department is working on the implementation of the fourth motor insurance directive which provides a good opportunity to examine ways to more speedily implement the recommendations in question.

A number of the recommendations will need to be explored further by the implementation group before they can be acted on. For example, as regards the recommendation that a car could be confiscated if the driver is not covered by insurance, it may be that existing legislation provides sufficient authority for seizure of a vehicle. Similarly, the right of an injured party to proceed directly against the other party's insurance company seems to be substantively provided for in the Road Traffic Act, 1961.

The question of whether the vehicle or the user should be insured is raised in the MIAB report. As the report records, there are a number of significant cost and liability concerns in such a change. These will have to be explored by the implementation group before a decision can be made on the prudence of such a fundamental alteration to insurance law.

I welcome the report and thank its authors.

The MIAB report has been long awaited. Even longer awaited was action from the Government to end the fleecing of drivers and other consumers by the insurance companies and the legal profession.

The report is a damning indictment of the insurance industry and of successive Governments which have failed to tackle the vested interests that need to be challenged. The practices of commercial insurers of insuring only those they deem to be almost risk free, or least risk, or of imposing exorbitant premiums on young drivers are unacceptable. These practices only encourage people to drive without insurance thereby becoming a liability on the State if involved in a serious accident where an injured party has to sue the State for compensation. The incidence of this has risen in recent years.

An AA report last year showed huge differentials in how premiums were calculated for drivers. Another short survey showed some companies giving different quotes to phone customers than to those who made Internet queries. This points to a market hugely exploiting its customers. The State should take car insurance out of the private sector and establish its own insurance corporation modelled on existing state companies in, for example, British Colombia and New Zealand. These companies have proved their viability and contribute to better road safety through involvement in every aspect of road awareness projects. In setting premiums, such a company would not discriminate on the basis of age, sex or marital status. Teenage children could be added to their parents insurance normally and, I hope, at no extra cost. This company might also offer extra discounts for senior citizens with clean driving records.

Other problems which must be tackled are better funded road safety initiatives, a reduction in the huge numbers of provisional drivers on our roads and reform of the court or legal system which deals with compensation claims. That area merits immediate attention. It is unacceptable that young people are being discriminated against when it comes to car insurance thereby forcing many of them to drive uninsured and to be, as a consequence, an even bigger threat to other road users. We need action. Following on tomorrow's expected rise of this Dáil a new administration must take action to stop the rip-off of consumers by the insurance industry. The rip-off is not confined to motor insurance. We need to look at insurance in general. There should be Government imposed price control of insurance, and if this requires a change of law at EU level that must be pursued.

We need measures to reduce the cost of personal injury claims. We must simplify the legal process to ensure that cases are settled speedily and that the number of false claims is reduced. Gross profiteering by the legal profession must be rooted out. This point is highlighted in the report which found that some solicitors are guilty of misconduct by deducting a percentage of awards made to clients injured in road traffic accidents. Like other powerful vested interests, the legal profession is not subject to independent scrutiny. It polices itself, if at all. There is no proper protection for the ordinary citizen. This must change so that abuses can be tackled. There should be an immediate investigation into blatant discrimination against younger drivers by insurance companies. I hope the new administration will adopt such action as a priority immediately following the general election.

I agree with other Deputies who have spoken and I too urge the introduction of driver training at second school level. Transition year is the ideal time to start programmes of awareness, competency and understanding. By introducing driver training in transition year we would ensure that young drivers are better prepared for the roads and for their responsibilities as drivers, their responsibilities to themselves, their passengers and all road users. That measure, if proactively pursued and properly introduced to the curriculum, would result in a significant reduction in the tragic carnage we have witnessed in recent years on a weekly basis throughout this island. We must agree that this measure is an imperative. We cannot start it early enough and transition year is the ideal opportunity. In that year young people have the chance to absorb and experience new infor mation and responsibilities as they prepare for life after second level education.

I recommend these ideas to the Minister and I hope action will be taken by the incoming Government.

I am delighted to speak on this issue. It is ironic that we end the Dáil session on one of the most important issues. We have heard criticism from across the benches on how much has been or has not been done on the issue of motor insurance costs. Ultimately, what we have here is three years of diligent consideration of what is a complex issue. If it was not as complex we would not have a report of this size which makes 67 recommendations. I commend the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Treacy, on the initiative, for seizing the issue and coming up with what are seen to be the problems that exist within the insurance industry.

If that initiative had not been taken we would be exactly where we were before – we could talk about the issues. We had our own ideas of what the problems were but until problems are put down on paper and adjudicated fairly nothing can be done. As the Minister said, this is the road map. This shows us clearly what the problems are and how they can be addressed. They will not all be addressed the same way, some need legislation and some need referring to other bodies. It is significant that after three years we have recommendations that must be implemented. I am delighted by the speed with which the Minister has reacted to the report and that the implementation group has been set up. As of today, it has had its first meeting and must report back in three months' time.

It is great to have the report but as many Deputies are aware, many reports are only dust collectors. Unless something is done with the reports they will only collect dust. I am confident, because of the way this report has been received, that it will not be added to any list of dust-collecting reports. This report will inspire action and I trust it will yield results.

In the constituency from which I come, as in many other constituencies, a car is not a luxury but a vital component of daily life. Many people in my constituency are not on a bus route and I do not need to add that we are not on a train route either as there are no trains. We are completely reliant on cars and not just one car but two. Anyone who has started the campaign trail knows that one can find two cars outside a house and assume one will meet someone at the door, only to find that the householder is away in the third car. The car is vital to every family in rural areas who cannot get from A to B without it. A car is vital to every aspect of my job. People need cars to get to their jobs or to get to hospital appointments because they may be away from the bus route or out of the way for taxis. Having a car is not a luxury, it is vital.

Car insurance costs do not hit only young people, although I agree that young people have been unfairly targeted. I have had young people come to me and show me the price of their cars and the price of their insurance and it is frightening. I have spoken to young people who say that the only reason they are employed is to keep their cars on the road. There must be more to life than this. It should not be this way; insurance should not be five, six or seven times the value of one's car. However, insurance is also increasingly an issue for the old and for all age groups. We heard much about how the events of 11 September resulted in very high prices for car insurance as well as for all types of insurance. However, I have been told by many people who have talked to Americans that car insurance and insurance generally has not changed at all in the USA. If these changes are not occurring where the real trouble happened, namely in the USA, I would love to know why the events of 11 September have had such an effect on our insurance. I am aware of community groups here whose insurance for running festivals went up by 300%.

I am worried that the price of insurance may be contributing to the problem of people driving while uninsured. The report says that the costs of uninsured drivers add 8% to the cost of claims in the aggregate motor insurance market. A person came to me saying that their insurance, which had been £2,400 per year, had gone up to £4,500 after a minor accident which resulted in the person they had bumped into making a large claim. This person lives about 40 miles from their employment and they have no alternative way of getting there. They are currently on an apprentice's wage of between €190 and €254 per week. The situation encourages people to go without insurance because they simply cannot afford it and they have no alternative means of transport. This is all the more reason for us to implement the recommendations in this report.

I am not against companies making a fair profit but I am totally against exploitation and it is clear from this report that certain sections of our community are being exploited. The situation may be compared to that of Northern Ireland. Because I am from Donegal and our lives are intertwined with those from counties such as Derry, I cannot help but compare the two. A person in Northern Ireland can buy a new car and get the first year or two years of car insurance free, plus a reduction in road tax. How can this happen? How can a young person buy a car for maybe £8,000 sterling with two years of car insurance incorporated? These people are not safer drivers – they are the same age group as the people who are in difficulties here. Yet car insurance can be given out as part of the car. One would never see that here: many people are paying £8,000 for their insurance, never mind a new car.

The Minister talked about shopping around and I agree wholeheartedly. I have never tried to obtain car insurance without phoning a number of companies. I am always asked immediately whether I have another quote. I pick a figure out of the air and the company is nearly always able to give me a cheaper quote immediately. There is something wrong if the quoted price can often be at least €100 cheaper than a made-up one. Some 67% of the market is currently controlled by three companies. This is a problem in terms of shopping around because people need motor insurance to drive their cars and if three companies are monopolising this much of the market it cannot be competitive. The recommendations on this issue need to be considered. People are also being refused quotations. I am glad that one of the recommendations deals with the issue of late notices – notification should be given 15 days before a person's current insurance runs out because if one receives no notice one does not have time to shop around even those few companies.

Another issue came to my attention while I was teaching in Derry. If one told the insurance companies that one was living in Donegal and working in Derry, some of them would not give quotes. I do not know whether this still goes on but I thought it was a strange thing to be happening on this island. Legal fees need to be addressed as there is no doubt that they are adding to costs. People are always indicating to me that VRT needs to be abolished or reduced. VRT should be ring-fenced so that young people's insurance can be dealt with. If people could see that their VRT was going towards something that would benefit them, be it a reduction in insurance or some mechanism for dealing with the cost of insurance, we would be getting somewhere. Ring fencing needs to be introduced.

There is no doubt that there are many safe drivers on the road. I am glad to see that the Minister has acknowledged that young females, as the report says, are being hit particularly hard and that this has already resulted in reduced quotations for some young drivers. If nothing else, the report has clearly exposed what is going on. It makes 67 recommendations and I am looking forward to watching the next Government – hopefully we will be sitting on the same side – implement some very important legislation. I am sorry to have run out of time as there is so much to say about this. I wish the Minister well in implementing the recommendations.

I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words on this report. This report was prepared very late in the lifetime of the Government but this issue is of grave concern to motorists, particularly young motorists. Deputy Keaveney indicated that she hoped the issue would be taken up by the next Government and that she would still be on the same side of the House. However, if the next Government makes as little progress on motor insurance as the present Government, nothing will change. I appreciate that the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, has answered numerous parliamentary questions on this issue and his presence in the Chamber to answer questions and give us his and the Government's proposals was a highlight of the last Dáil term.

Unfortunately, the Minister of State's words did not translate into action to any great extent. While I appreciate that the report, which contains 67 recommendations, has been brought before the House, it is no consolation for young motorists whose annual motor insurance bill is over €1,000. The Government's performance in this area has been woefully inadequate. Deputy Keaveney raised the pertinent question of why young drivers in the North can be insured for much less than their counterparts in the South. I appreciate that the Government has had many priorities, but it is a shame the issue of motor insurance has not received the political attention it has warranted in recent years.

The insurance industry as a whole faced a crisis in the aftermath of 11 September and premia in many areas increased. The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, knows that small businesses have suffered as a result of the steep rises in insurance costs. It is too late for the Minister of State to address insurance costs for those in the recycling industry in the current Dáil, but perhaps officials from his Department will examine the matter. I have received many queries from those involved in the industry who are carrying out work which is needed to protect our environment. They do not complain that the premia they are quoted are too high, but that it is impossible to receive a quotation for public liability insurance. In my constituency, it is likely that 15 people will be laid off next week because insurance cover is being withdrawn from the operator of a recycling facility and he cannot find alternative cover. The crisis in all sectors of the insurance industry needs to be addressed urgently.

Returning to the specific matter of the impact of the excessive cost of motor insurance on young drivers, I suggest a number of areas which are worthy of examination. One has to concede that this country's compensation culture is partly responsible for premium increases. Our accident rate is not substantially higher than the European average, but the average cost of claims is much greater. Although Deputies have been aware of this for many years, it has not been addressed. Questions have to be answered by those involved in the legal profession, especially bearing in mind recent Sunday newspaper reports about the breakdown of insurance claims. Many people other than claimants are benefiting to a great extent from recent changes in the insurance industry. The cost of such gains is usually carried by ordinary motorists.

We have to look seriously at the legal response to insurance claims. The imposition of limits on claims may have to be considered. When juries were removed from compensation cases some years ago, it was predicted that awards would decrease with a resultant reduction in insurance premia, but this has not happened. We cannot afford to do nothing because if premia continue to rise as they have done in recent years, insurance costs will reach an all-time high.

Driving a car is no longer a luxury, it is an absolute necessity for many people from an employment point of view. We have to aspire to a fair rate of insurance, particularly for young drivers. Fine Gael has proposed certain measures to improve the driving skills of young people and I believe our suggestions should be implemented. If we can reduce the number of road accidents, the number of claims will also fall. This can be achieved by concentrating on issues such as skills, instruction, safety and observance of the rules of the road. These are basic matters, but we have been unable to emphasise them to the necessary extent. The rules of the road are not observed by many motorists and our driving instruction and testing system is, frankly, failing miserably. I welcome the suggestion that a registered network of driving schools be established.

Statistics show that approximately 50% of candidates pass the driving test, which indicates that it is something of a lottery. One wonders if instruction methodology has changed as improvements in driver skills are not evident on our roads. The proposal that transition year students be taught the rules of the road and basic driving skills should be considered as the earlier one is properly instructed in driving skills, the better for all concerned. I hope driver instruction issues will be examined and the testing system reviewed and revamped. I would like the lottery of the present driving test system to be replaced by a system whereby applicants for a full driving licence have to take a set number of lessons from a registered instructor. Most people take two or three lessons a week or two before their test, which is not conducive to learning good driving skills or habits.

Progress can be made by implementing common sense measures. I have mentioned the lack of observance of the rules of the road. Speed limits are ignored by most drivers, and road signs, which are generally ineffective, are ignored. I have asked on a number of occasions in this House and at meetings of Cork County Council that our signage be modernised and improved as dramatic and more clearly visible signs would be much more effective. Our response in relation to such issues always seems to be slow, however. I appreciate that my time is nearly up.

The Deputy's seat is safe.

I hope my remarks are not a bad omen for the election. While I welcome the publication of the MIAB report, it is disappointing that the Government has not taken action. The next Government, regardless of its political hue, should place motor insurance at the top of its agenda as it is an important issue for many citizens, especially young people.

I reiterate the sentiments that have been expressed by Deputy Bradford. This report and its recommendations must be commended and, more importantly, implemented. The newspapers say that no Government will implement them because of vested interests. I find that extremely hard to take because every Member of this House represents people who have been badly affected by the dramatic increase in insurance premia over the years and is particularly aware that young people must pay exorbitant premia to drive on our roads if they stay within the law. We have always contended that those premia were too high and asked if the statements from the motor insurance companies were correct. We asked if they were making a profit from other sectors of the motor insurance industry while levying too much on young people and tarring all of them with the same brush.

Inevitably, as the statistics show, there is a higher rate of accidents among the young than among the 25 to 65 age group. Questions have arisen about how we monitor young people with a provisional licence, whether they should be allowed to drive on motorways and about other legislation that is not being adhered to. Having said that, many sympathise and empathise with young people as the vast majority of them stay within the law. Most of us who are parents of young people know that the vast majority of them who go out at the weekend will not drive a car if they are going for a drink because they understand that drinking and driving is not acceptable. I wish I could say the same of our age group who grew up with the habit of driving with a few drinks. These young people are nevertheless penalised. I stated often before that we accept in the private health insurance industry that young people, who have fewer claims than the elderly, must pay the community rate. In other words, we accept that old people will have more claims but ask healthy young people to pay the same rate as them. Yet, for motor insurance, it is not politically correct to say that each of us should take a fair share of the burden. The older age group do not have the same level of motor accidents but we will not ask them to foot the bill in the same way as the young do for health insurance.

Many people drive without insurance. The Minister should take back to his colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, two issues that came to my notice recently. One arose before we introduced legislation relating to traders – I say traders as against Travellers. After these people move illegally onto sites, when gardaí come to check their tax and insurance, they discover in many instances that the addresses given are fictitious. The time has come to ensure that legitimate addresses are given for motor taxation and insurance purposes.

The second issue that came to light recently is the buying of bangers. People buy old cars cheaply and drive them without tax or insurance. When such cars are involved in an accident, innocent parties suffer. I know of a young woman who bought a car for the first time and was struck by another car that had no insurance. The cost of the accident was £4,000 and she is still seeking redress. What action can be taken against a person who drives without insurance? This charge is levied against non-nationals, and it is true in certain instances, but it is also true that many nationals drive without insurance. The excuse made is that they cannot afford it, but under no circumstances can we condone anyone driving without insurance, in danger of maiming people or damaging vehicles and causing huge problems for people who are on the road legitimately. We should ask anyone who is buying a car to produce proof that he or she is able to insure it and get an indication from an insurance company to that effect. The onus should be on the person selling a car to ensure that the vendor can insure it.

We believed for a long time that this industry was ripping off sections of the community. The Minister was criticised, particularly by Deputy Rabbitte, for not acting on the interim report. How nice that sounds coming from him. If the Minister had done that and the final report differed dramatically from the interim, Deputy Rabbitte would be loud in saying that the Minister was intemperate for establishing a body which was asked to report to him and then took action before its final report was produced. He would accuse the Minister of being out of his depth, of acting in haste and being irresponsible. How a responsible Deputy like Deputy Rabbitte could criticise the Minister for waiting for the final report, beggars belief. The only conclusion that we can come to is that the Member is playing politics on the eve of an election being called.

This report is outstanding. I was a member of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business where we had several hearings with the various parties such as the industry itself. When its representatives came before us, we met with the same obfuscation that the board encountered. After one such hearing, I asked the Government at a meeting of the parliamentary party to give us the statutory powers to investigate it fully. Since then, courts have judged that we cannot go down that road as we might infringe people's personal integrity or defame them.

The report before us points to two major issues that could be addressed by any Government, and I thank the Minister for giving a commitment to address them. The legal system creams off 40% of the cost of claims. There are too many claims and these people are encouraged in this practice. It is not before time that the proposed board, which does not have the support of vested interests, is set up. Well done to the Minister of State. He should get on top of this issue and undertake a full investigation of the insurance industry to ensure companies are not reaping significant profits unlike their counterparts throughout Europe. If the Minister of State goes down that road, he will have the support of everybody, and of young people in particular who finally have a report that a Government can act on to reduce premiums to a level that suits all of us.

The Chair fits the seat well and he is not the first Cavan man to sit in it. Tom Fitzpatrick was there before him. If I am in the Minister of State's position following the election, I will consider the Chair for the position of Ceann Comhairle because he would be well able for it.

We could always reach an agreement, which was the tradition until the Deputy's party changed the procedure.

The reason the report was published recently is that the Minister of State, his comrades and every other Member have been listening at the doorstep to young people and their parents complaining about insurance premiums, particularly in rural areas where there is not an adequate public transport system and people depend on cars. There is no doubt a car is a dangerous weapon if it is not in the right hands because it is high powered. I offer my sympathies to the families of the two gardaí who were killed the weekend before last as they were doing their duty. One of them was from my county. We saw the damage that can be done when young people drive high powered cars.

If one is a soldier, one is trained to shoot a gun. Others must have a licence to use a gun. However, a 17 year old can drive the highest powered car available on a provisional licence. There is nothing illegal about that because no legislative provision has been made to ensure people learn how to drive properly. The time has come to teach young people how to drive. The first step should to be to make driving a subject in the leaving certificate curriculum.

Training centres are not available to teach young people and there are not enough instructors to cope with demand. There is a nine month waiting list for those who wish to do their driving test, although I acknowledge that has been reduced over the past few years. Training centres should be provided for young people where they can be taught how to drive properly before they reach the legal driving age and they should have to pass a number of tests rather than doing it the other way around where they can drive high powered vehicles when they reach 17 and learn to drive on the road. That does not make sense.

I am glad insurance companies have been investigated and I hope the Minister of State will ensure further investigation is carried out because they have come out of this report very badly. Their representative tried to defend the indefensible in the national media. One cannot defend charging young people £5,000 for insurance. In many cases the insurance premium costs more than the car itself and that does not make sense. People should be penalised if they commit a crime but an individual should not have to pay dearly for insurance until he or she is involved in a crash or has to take out a claim for theft, etc.

All the insurance companies have a part to play. Many of them do not even bother to take on young people. All insurance companies should take on a quota of young drivers at a reasonable rate and provide them with an opportunity to be insured and if they put in a claim, they should have to stay with the company with whom they are insured. I would have no problem if their premiums were loaded in those circumstances but it is wrong that their policies are loaded without them having had an accident.

Young people complain to politicians and ask what can be done. The Minister of State said he is restricted under EU law. This issue reminds me of the top-up scheme. We have been told for the past three months that consent was being awaited from Europe for the scheme but the Government is paying out now, even though consent has not been granted. Is it not amazing that when we want to we can use European laws to our advantage and disadvantage?

That is why the referendum on the Nice treaty was defeated. Europe was blamed for all the bad news and Members blamed Europe for most of the legislation being introduced in the House. It is no wonder people were confused and felt they could not vote in favour of the Nice treaty. It is time laws were introduced in this Parliament to help young people by providing that insurance companies take on young people and prevent claims that are made on a daily basis with the encouragement of barristers and solicitors. I am sorry I did not stay in school because I missed my vocation.

The Deputy would have been a great advocate.

If I had stayed in school, I would have made a good barrister and would have made a great deal of money if I had been working at one of the tribunals. The vested interests in insurance companies and in the legal profession must be taken on and the Government will have to set thresholds for the amounts awarded for various accidents. Anyone who has a serious accident is entitled to significant compensation. However, the first thing someone who has a minor tip does is put on a collar because that is worth £30,000 in compensation. That culture must cease.

A database of compensation claims must be put in place. There are individuals throughout the country who seem to be in court on a full-time basis pursuing claims under car or public liability insurance policies. People who regularly take up claims in court must be challenged and shown up for what they are. Insurance companies should be doing this anyway. A friend told me about a case that was being settled not for pounds, shillings and pence but for guineas. However, the poor young people and their parents are the guinea pigs because they must pay higher insurance premiums.

It is a shame that this serious problem has not been tackled during the lifetime of the Government and the new Government will have to address it. I hope the parties involved will make a better fist of it than the present Administration and I would like something to be done about the loading of policies taken out by young people.

The horse has been put before the cart in regard to car testing. It would be better if roads were built first, signage was put in place and young people were taught how to drive in training centres rather than loading their policies. What have we got against signage? The Department of the Environment and Local Government is very good at erecting 30 mph speed limit signs.

The Garda does not deserve credit for issuing speeding tickets for violation in 30 mph zones at 10 o'clock at night. If one left the city centre now, one would not travel a mile in the next hour but if one travelled later tonight one would probably get a speeding ticket for exceeding the 30 mph limit when trying to make up time. Innocent people are penalised and they turn against the Government, politicians in general and the system. They are not criminals. All they are trying to do is to make up time at night. A driver travelling at 100 mph is the one who should be brought before the courts and prosecuted.

The Minister of State referred to the number of on-the-spot fines which have been imposed. I tabled a question, the reply to which I am told I will receive tomorrow if we are still here—

We will.

Does the Minister of State believe we will be? I am told we will not be. We do not mind waiting another 24 hours.

We will have a working breakfast.

I do not know what will happen. It will be the first decision the Government will have taken in five years and it will probably be taken tomorrow.

It is a shame we did not tackle insurance companies before this to give young people an opportunity to be insured. It is wrong that they are being penalised, that proper training is not in place for them and that a system does not exist whereby each insurance company accepts a quota of them.

I have been contacted by a number of civil servants regarding the privatisation of driver testing centres. Will the people in those centres remain as civil servants, will they be obliged to seek alternative employment or will they be transferred to other sections of the Civil Service? I would not like this service to be privatised. I would rather if the State retained control of it and that more centres were built throughout the country to teach young people how to drive properly. Perhaps the Minister of State will deal with this in his reply.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to make a few points on this issue. I hope the next time we debate it young people will have an oppor tunity to obtain insurance at a reasonable price. It is time the insurance companies were tackled.

I wish the Minister of State and other candidates well in the forthcoming general election. I wish Deputy Mattie Brennan well in his retirement and I hope we will see him on holiday in Mayo more often.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to what is an important issue for young people and every Member of the House. I thank Deputy Ring for his kind remarks. He is one Member who will not be seeking a new position after the general election. He will be comfortably returned to the Chamber and he deserves it.

Let us hope he brings his colleagues with him.

I was a member of Committee on Enterprise and Small Business which helped bring about the Motor Insurance Advisory Board report. I compliment the committee on its sterling work on this issue. Some might ask what it achieved. The fact the report is with the Minister of State is proof of its achievements.

I found the representatives of the motor insurance industry who attended meetings of the committee to be very glib. It was very difficult to obtain information from them and it was obvious they were singing from the same hymn sheet. They were crying poverty and almost indicating that they were offering charity by giving insurance to young people. The mid-term report, which was issued about 12 months ago, indicated clearly that motor insurance for young people was profitable. The Minister of State was right not to act on that report.

I thank the Deputy.

He had to wait for the final report. Now that he has it, the can of worms has been opened. This industry must be tackled. There is no hiding place. The glib comments of the insurance representatives who appeared before the committee have been revealed for what they are. It is clear there is no competition and that young people are being ripped off and form a profitable part of the insurance industry.

I do not have a problem with profitability. I want to see profitable companies. I do not want circumstances similar to England where, at less than 1%, the profit margin is much tighter than in Ireland. I want to see stable companies doing well and holding assets. The difficulty is that profitability is achieved by levying substantial premiums. That must be dealt with. It is wrong that young people are being made scapegoats.

I have the highest regard for young people. We have the best group of young people and they face a challenging world which is very different from that which existed when I and the Minister of State were growing up. They are able to deal with that. Everything is out in the open. It is an open agenda. The attractions available to them and the culture of socialising have changed. The vast majority of young people are fine citizens, yet despite this they are all tarred with the same brush. As for the small percentage who are not, it is not their fault. It is the parenting they receive and the areas in which they live. The State is negligent in that it is not able to help them and deal with them.

In a rural constituency such as mine, Cavan-Monaghan, a car is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Not all young people live near their work and they must have a car because there is no public transport. To be in the workplace at 8 a.m. necessitates getting up at 7 a.m. and using the car to travel there. The alternative is staying at home and collecting the dole, but that is not what we want. We must facilitate young people to get to and from work. They are also entitled to use their cars to socialise.

I accept that there is a problem with speeding and serious crashes caused by a small number of young people. Most youngsters are responsible. This problem can be dealt with if we look at it from this aspect. We should compensate young people who are safe drivers, but this is not done. All young people are tarred with the same brush. The annual no-claims bonus reduction in premiums no longer applies. There is an annual increase and no encouragement for young people, who need to be encouraged. A young person is entitled to have a car, which he or she can usually buy second-hand, and to reasonable insurance. Where there is an accident, it is natural to expect the insurance premium to increase, but why should all young people be forced to pay the same heavy premium?

The number of cars on the market means a young person can buy a good quality second-hand car for between €3,000 and €5,000. I thank God there are no more old cars on the roads anymore. Cars registered in 1999, 2000 and 2001 are commonplace on garage forecourts. It is not the purchase of a car which is the problem. It is that the insurance premium can be equal to or greater than the price of the car, and this is an annual payment. The income of young people starting out in the world of work is tied up in their cars. That is wrong and it does not encourage them. We must address this problem. If insurance companies are not prepared to do it, the Government must. The Minister of State will have responsibility for that.

I cannot say if the Dáil will be dissolved tomorrow, although the Minister of State knows, but the world is not coming to an end tomorrow. A new Government will be in place, Fine Gael will form it and I pledge that we will deal with this problem. Time has run out on the Minister of State but his successor will not turn a blind eye to what he has achieved. He has obtained the report, although it was difficult to get it. It was like pulling teeth from a goose. The industry backtracked and held back, but we have the report and some thing on which to work. The next Government, which will be a Fine Gael one although I will work with whatever Government is in power, must deal with the issue of insurance for young people. I will insist on our party leader, who will be Taoiseach after the general election, pledging that this issue will be dealt with.

I see the difficulty young people in my rural constituency have and I am sure it is similar for large urban areas. Given the type of employment available in multinational companies which work around the clock and where the working day is no longer nine to five and is more likely to be a 12 hour shift, even where public transport is available, it is neither suitable nor convenient. Time is of the essence when one clocks in and works for these companies.

The claims culture in this country must be addressed. Deputy Ring referred to the behaviour of legal and insurance people in this regard. Perhaps we will see that we have been pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

I know the Minister of State is interested in the general area of insurance and although it is not relevant to this debate I wish to raise the issue of small businesses closing down. Small businesses simply cannot get quotes. They are being closed down by stealth as a result of not having insurance cover. People cannot get insurance cover for heavy plant machinery such as that used for timber extraction in forestry. Quotes will be offered but of such ridiculous proportions that it is not commercially viable and if it were to be paid the companies would be bankrupt in 12 months. This matter must be addressed.

I am delighted with all the contributions that have been made. This issue must be addressed for the sake of young people. I hope it is not lip-service as it would be tragic if that were the case and young people, in particular, would be extremely disappointed in it. It would be a disgrace if nothing was done after the strength of feeling expressed in the House following this report, which was a long time in coming from the MIAB. I am pledging, as I know the Minister of State will, that something will be done about it in the next Dáil where it will be at the top of the agenda. Something will be done for young people in regard to insurance to allow them to get on with their lives.

I congratulate the Minister on the publication of this report. It is one of the most comprehensive reports that has ever come into this House and I very much welcome it. Many young people cannot afford to drive a car because of the insurance costs associated with it. As the last speaker, Deputy Boylan, said, a car is an essential part of life in rural areas. Whether one works ten or 20 miles from home the only means of transport in most cases is the car. In Dublin there is a good bus and train service to get people to and from work, but for those living in rural areas the only options are to have a motorcycle or a car, and most people prefer to have a car.

I would like to see the speed limit being adhered to in rural areas. I never got a speeding ticket in my life but I believe that a speed limit of 60 mph is too high for the majority of our county roads. I hope the Minister of State will take this on board. It should not be the same as on our national primary and secondary roads. If we have a speed limit of 30 mph as we approach towns, why do we have a speed limit of 60 mph on county roads? I am not blaming anybody for this. Our county roads are lovely and I do not want to see them changed. Visitors from abroad admire the beautiful scenery and the twists and turns on them.

I am not happy with the amount of compensation that people get when they make a claim. One night when I was a passenger in a car we met two cars stopped on the road waiting to turn right. As we passed the second car someone suddenly ran out from the back of it into the path of the car in which I was. He had been told by the driver of the other car that there was a car approaching yet he ran into the path of the oncoming car. I am not saying that he had alcohol taken but the signs all pointed to that being the case. That individual went to a solicitor and was told to claim and he got a large sum of money even though he was in the wrong, because a car driver is responsible at all times when he is on the road. Some solicitors make a great deal of money because they work on a percentage of what they can get from successful claims and that should not be allowed.

I will not be back in the House to see the recommendations of this report being implemented but I hope the Acting Chairman and the Minister of State are both back to ensure this happens. There are some aspects of this report, in particular, that I would like to see being implemented. Our young people are among the most responsible in society. They will not take their car on a Saturday night if they intend having a drink and designated drivers are a common practice. We were not as responsible when we were their age, but admittedly there were not as many cars available then.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government are introducing a number of cameras around the country and I hope that process will continue so that those who are speeding will be caught. Recently I was overtaken while driving at 50 mph by two cars which passed out coming into a turn with a double white line on the road. In such places we need to have cameras to catch the culprits because they are a living danger.

I hope that when an appropriate Bill comes before the House the Minister of State will be there to see it through. This is my last time to speak in the House and it has been a pleasure to work with all Members and the staff of the House.

At the risk of abusing my position in the Chair, I thank Deputy Brennan for his contribution and wish him well in his retirement.

I endorse what has been said about Deputy Brennan. He has given legendary and distinctive service to this House representing the great people of Sligo and Leitrim for 20 years. It has been a privilege to have him as a colleague in Parliament and within the parliamentary party. I thank him for his tremendous work and wish himself and his wife and wonderful family every success in the years ahead. I look forward to meeting him on many future occasions, please God, both in this House and outside it.

I thank all of the Deputies who have spoken so clearly and eloquently on this Bill. I single out the contributions of Deputies Andrew Boylan, Joe Higgins, Batt O'Keeffe, Michael Ring and Mattie Brennan. Their interpretation of the report and sincerity and positive attitude speak volumes for what we could all achieve to best represent the people, irrespective of what the challenge may be.

Much blame has been attributed to me in recent years in regard to insurance. I was appointed to this job on 9 October 1997. I studied the industry and had consultations with the insurance unit in my Department pertaining to the problems of the insurance industry, and immediately set about addressing them. We decided to proceed with an Insurance Bill which became the Insurance Act, 2000, and created a new transparency and fairness for the consumer. It was a historic breakthrough and the first time it was done and I am pleased to have been part of it. I thank everybody who worked with me to achieve that.

I have been blamed for what happened in the case of Independent Insurers, a company registered abroad in regard to which no responsibility attached to the legislative authorities in the State or to my Department. Upon the collapse of the company on 17 June 2001, I immediately responded, bringing the Insurance Federation in within 24 hours and saving many companies from going to the wall. We got alternative cover, albeit at a much higher price, and we kept the economy ticking over. Nobody could have foreseen the crisis in the United States and across the world following 11 September, but I dealt with it as best I could, keeping the Dáil, my colleagues and everybody else informed of events as they unfolded. I did my best to save a few companies, one of which I regret went to the wall while a few more were seriously affected. Nobody could blame the Government, me or my Department because we responded instantly on every occasion as the crisis evolved.

This report is the most comprehensive ever delivered to the State and what it comes down to is money. This is all to do with financial services and protection and the management of funds in the interests of people, from whom the money comes. People pay insurance premiums. The average return on premiums paid per motorist during the period of managing those funds, which come in and go out from the companies, averages 3%. There is 103% of capital comprising that which is paid in premiums and the 3% net income added on as a result of interest payments. The report explains where the money goes. The 3% earned in interest on the investment of premiums is paid to the brokers who are the intermediaries who handle the applications, leaving the initial capital of 100%, 50% of which is paid out in compensation, 10% on management expenses and the remaining 40% to the lawyers who professionally manage matters on behalf of litigants. Given where that 40% goes, there were a number of people here today whom I would have thought had a very strong professional interest in those figures, but they did not even refer to them and chose to blame me.

The Motor Insurance Advisory Board report contains proposals to improve the quality of justice for seriously injured and genuinely innocent victims of accidents. This will not involve any net cost increase provided the litigation overheads in such cases are tackled to ensure that the money goes to those who need it, not to the legal experts. The reason the MIAB findings differ from those of the Government, my Department and me is because our key responsibility is the supervision of solvency to ensure that companies have capital adequacy to meet their liabilities going forward. The supervision of solvency is an entirely different brief from the question of equity of premium differentials and only a board with statutory power and the force of law behind it could dig into every other aspect of motor insurance, which is a compulsory operation. That is the mandate I gave the MIAB and it did an outstanding job.

We were accused of doing nothing for five years and of achieving nothing for the people, but there were many there for years before me who did absolutely nothing. I was asked why it took so long for action to be taken. I appointed the board in September 1998 and it has taken since then to force the required raw data out of the insurance companies. It was only last June that we ultimately received those data in usable format. I managed this matter in consultation with the board, the insurance industry and in answer to parliamentary questions and I never flinched from my goal of a report which would be a tool to serve consumers and to provide opportunities for future Governments to address these matters. I am confident that the document is comprehensive and will be of major assistance going forward.

There was no alternative way to get this information and we can see that by looking at the limited progress made by the Joint Committee which called the Insurance Federation before it. Until all the analyses were completed, it would have been premature to proceed. I sincerely thank the four Deputies opposite who admitted that it would not have been possible to proceed without thede facto information, which I appreciate very much. I thank them sincerely for their integrity, dignity and honour in accepting that I could not proceed with an interim report which would not stand up in law anywhere. Any decision I took would have been subject to judicial review and would not have stood for a second. I was not prepared to risk the integrity of Government or the Constitution or to pose a threat to the rights of citizens by not having a solid report in front of me. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board made it clear that the 67 recommendations must be addressed in tandem, not piecemeal or à la carte, and we are following that advice. In the IIF press statement of March 2001 following the release of the interim report of June 2000, insurers attacked Deputies for speaking out before the final facts were established. That is a matter of public record. In contrast, the Insurance Federation's statements of the past week welcome the report and its recommendations. This report relates to everybody and everybody accepts it.

People have asked why the publication date of 31 December 2001 was not met. The initial draft of the final report was drawn up in November 2001, just a few months ago, and the work from then until February 2002 involved securing the Insurance Industry Federation's input and agreeing the text of its dissenting points at various paragraphs. We got the federation to check all the figures in the report and there is now no room for anybody to rubbish the data or the analysis of it, as was attempted after the publication of the interim report.

Acting Chairman

The Minister of State has one minute remaining.

I ask the House for tolerance as I have many other points to make. Is that acceptable to the House?

(Dublin West): Am I the House on this occasion? That is fine.

I am very grateful to Deputy Higgins.

(Dublin West): It is very unusual for me to constitute the House.

The Deputy is an honourable Member and I have no doubt that he will continue to be.

We received a quality report and no one has questioned the figures, facts or analysis contained in it. It has been agreed and accepted by all, unlike Deputy Rabbitte's McCauley report which was a legal, minority report and inconclusive. In blaming me for not going ahead with the MIAB report, Deputy Rabbitte is being completely disingenuous. He was not able to get a conclusive report and, upon receipt of a divided document, his alternative was to create McCauley 2. I have now to deal with that, but he blames me for not doing so. He has attacked me on radio and television, in newspapers and in Parliament. He was a Minister in the area of commerce and though not once in his time in office did he call the previous Motor Insurance Advisory Board of four members together, communicate with or consult them or take action on motor insurance, he still tells me what I did wrong. I say to Deputy Rabbitte that the people will judge my performance and I am quite confident they will find I have done my best at all times in their interests.

It is clear where we go now. People have referred today to the press conference of ISME and other organisations and I am fully in touch with that matter. I have met these organisations time beyond number over the past five years and given them the best advice on every occasion. I met them last week and gave them solid advice which I am sure they will consider as seriously as possible. I wish them every success with what they propose.

We mean business. We have produced a report which between the annotated document, the main text and the appendices exceeds 1,000 pages. A high powered implementation group was set up, chaired by the eminent Assistant Secretary of the Department, Mr. Corcoran, including outstanding people such as principal officers in other Departments, representatives from the Consumers' Association, IBEC and the eminent chairperson of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, Dorothea Dowling. They had their first meeting this morning at which they set out a target of work. As a result of a Government decision on 10 April, they have three months from today to report back to me. They were given three months from the inaugural meeting which means they must report back to the next Government within three months from today.

An outline of the implementation group's work is very simple. They have looked at the recommendations, decided who is responsible, what action needs to be taken and who must take that action, and they are setting a time schedule for the action to be taken. Together with that, they will be asking the insurance industry right across the board to clearly outline the level of reductions in premium costs that would accompany a reduction in legal costs because we got a commitment from the insurance industry in the past that if we abolished juries the cost of insurance would decrease. This Parliament agreed to abolish juries. Following a Government decision, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recommended to Parliament in good faith that that be done but we got no return. On this occasion we want to know what we will get before proceeding to make any further reduction. We intend to proceed very rapidly.

The implementation group will meet in joint consultation with the Motor Insurance Advisory Board on 2 May to decide how they can maximise their impact together so that there will be rapid performance over the three months ensuring the next Government will have the most conclusive, impacting situation possible to deliver a fair, equitable, cost-effective and efficient insurance cover to motorists. We have done a huge amount of work. We have set a standard and an opportunity for the next Government and Minister, whoever is in office, to conclude the work. I am confident if we get the full support of Parliament, whoever is elected to the new Dáil, work together and support one another, it will take a great effort to kill the vested interests. Following the McAuley report, we invited the Incorporated Law Society and the Bar Council to make submissions to us. They said they would provided we told them in writing what we wished to discuss. IBEC, the Consumers' Association or any others who discussed the matter with us did not set preconditions.

People are now beginning to see there is a serious requirement for people to act honourably and in a consensual way to achieve that which is fair to every citizen irrespective of their age or where they live. We are confident that if Parliament works together and supports the Government of the day, whoever that may be, we can ensure new cost-effective and efficient structures and that systems and opportunities can be delivered for all consumers of insurance, whether motor, personal accident, employers' liability or whatever. If we look at the facts, 40% are the legal fees on the motor side, 46% are the legal fees on the employers' liability side but when poor mother Ireland or the taxpayers of the country are paying out the fees are 56.4%. No one can justify that. We can only win if we in Parliament work together and support one another. No one on their own will win. We must work collectively to support the Government of the day, including the new boards that have been set up, the implementation group and the personal injuries assessment board. If we work together on a solid basis and ensure we take on the vested interests then the people will win through the democratically elected Parliament and the Government that will be in office to do the job in the years ahead.

Acting Chairman

That concludes statements on the report on the Motor Insurance Industry.

Sitting suspended at 6.55 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.