Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the opportunity to address Dáil Éireann today on the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2018, which was published on 19 June 2018. This important legislation seeks to amend certain provisions of the Insurance Act 1964, as amended, to clarify the role of the Insurance Compensation Fund, ICF, and to implement the recommendations of the review of the framework for motor insurance compensation in Ireland report of 2016. The review was triggered following the failure of Setanta Insurance, a Maltese incorporated company, in 2014 and the uncertainty that followed over compensation arrangements for third-party claimants which highlighted weaknesses with the current insurance compensation framework in Ireland.

The cause of this uncertainty is the fact that there are two insurance guarantee schemes in place in Ireland with differing compensation levels, namely, the ICF and the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, MIBI. The ICF covers the liabilities of non-life insurance policy holders in the event of a failure of an insurance undertaking and covers 65% of a claim or €825,000, whichever is the lesser, and the MIBI’s primary purpose is to compensate victims of road traffic accidents caused by uninsured drivers and unidentified vehicles and covers 100% of a claim, subject to a limit of €1.22 million in the case of claims for property damage. This uncertainty was reinforced when, taking account of a clearly outlined reference to MIBI in the ICF legislation, the Law Society of Ireland brought a case to the High Court seeking that MIBI was liable to pay the Setanta third-party claimants. The outcome of this case was that in September 2015, the High Court ruled in the Law Society’s favour and the Court of Appeal, in January 2016, upheld this decision.

This was the context in which the review of the framework for motor insurance compensation in Ireland was carried out in 2016. The review made a number of recommendations which are addressed in the Bill, with the key recommendations being that the level of compensation from the ICF for third-party motor claims be increased from 65% to 100% in line with that currently provided by MIBI, and the increased coverage of the ICF be funded by a direct contribution to the ICF from the motor insurance industry via the MIBI to the value of 35% of the third-party motor insurance claims.

Subsequently, in May 2017 the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal and found that the ICF was liable for the payment of compensation to Setanta third-party claimants. The major effect of this was that Setanta third-party claimants who had previously thought they were going to receive full compensations were now only entitled to 65% of their claim or €825,000, whichever was the lesser. As a consequence, the Minister for Finance after appropriate consideration agreed that Setanta third-party claimants will receive 100% of a claim subject to a limit of €1.22 million in the case of claims for property damage and this decision is reflected in the Bill.

As Members will be aware, the heads of the Bill underwent pre-legislative scrutiny in March 2018 and I welcome the report of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. The report contains a number of recommendations regarding the heads to which I will return later.

I will now outline the main elements of the Bill, which comprises 17 sections. Part 1 deals with preliminary matters, including the Short Title of the Bill, definitions of terms used in the Bill and the authority for expenses incurred in the administration of the Bill. A separate commencement of Part 4 is included to allow the MIBI adequate time to put arrangements in place for the new motor insurers insolvency compensation, MIIC, fund. This part also provides for the transfer of functions relating to the administration of the ICF from the office of the accountant attached to the High Court to the Central Bank and relevant functions in relation to applications to the High Court, to the State Claims Agency, where liquidations are already in progress.

Part 2 deals with matters relating to the transfer of the administration of the fund such as the preparation of final accounts of the ICF, the payment of any moneys in the ICF to the Central Bank and the transfer of records from the accountant attached to the High Court to the Central Bank and the State Claims Agency.

Part 3 relates to the amendment of the Act of 1964 and comprises sections 8 to 15, inclusive. Section 8 amends of section 1 of Act of 1964, including definitions. Section 8 amends some of the existing definitions contained in the Insurance Act 1964 and inserts new definitions. Section 9 amends section 2 of Act of 1964 to provide that the Central Bank of Ireland will take over the functions performed by the accountant attached to the High Court in respect of the administration and governance of the ICF. It provides that the accounts of the ICF be given to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General not later than six months after the end of each financial year to be audited and thereafter laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas by the Minister for Finance.

Section 10 amends section 3 of the Insurance Act 1964 to disapply the current limit of 65% or €825,000, whichever is the lesser, to be paid to third-party claimants from the ICF in the case of the failure of a motor insurer.

This amendment provides for the payment of personal injury claims in full and to a maximum of €1.22 million for injury to property in the case of third-party motor insurance claims, in line with the amounts paid by MIBI where a driver is unidentified or uninsured. It also provides that in such a scenario, the ICF will be able to recoup the balance over the limits mentioned from a new motor insurers insolvency compensation fund, which is to be established under section 16. These amendments implement the key recommendations of the review of the framework for motor insurance compensation in Ireland. Finally, this Part of the Bill facilitates the payment of 100% compensation to third-party claimants for existing motor insurers that have gone into liquidation since 30 September 2011, namely, Setanta and Enterprise Limited.

Section 11 amends section 3A of the Insurance Act 1964 to provide that applications to the High Court by a liquidator, in the case of an insolvent insurer authorised in Ireland, for approval of payment from the ICF must be accompanied by a report from the State Claims Agency following its assessment and verification of the claims. A provision is also included in this section and in the following section to ensure any moneys which are recovered from the liquidation of a motor insurer are repaid on a pro rata basis to the ICF and the motor insurers insolvency compensation fund.

Section 12 amends section 3B of the Insurance Act 1964 so that in the case of an insolvent insurer authorised in another member state, the State Claims Agency will make the application to the High Court. Before doing this, it will have assessed and validated claims on the basis of information provided by the person appointed to perform the functions of a liquidator in that other state. The amounts approved by the High Court will be paid by the Central Bank of Ireland from the ICF to the State Claims Agency for disbursement to individual claimants. This section also shortens the time limit for making applications to the High Court for payments from the ICF from no more than once in any six-month period to no more than once in any three-month period. This will allow payments to be made more frequently.

Section 13 amends section 3C of the Insurance Act 1964, which deals with companies in administration, to provide that any application to the High Court for payment from the ICF shall be accompanied by a report prepared by the State Claims Agency confirming that the methodology applied for estimating claims reserves and assessing liabilities is appropriate and in line with generally accepted accounting principles or practice.

Section 14 amends section 6(6) of the Insurance Act 1964 to update the existing regulatory powers of the Central Bank of Ireland to take action in the event of an insurer failing to contribute to the ICF. Section 15 repeals section 14 of the Insurance Act 1964, which provided for the regulation-making powers of the Central Bank in relation to the Act. This is being done because the Central Bank already has appropriate regulation-making powers under section 48 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013.

In Part 4, section 16 provides a legal basis and sets out the arrangements for motor insurers operating in the Irish market to contribute an amount under normal circumstances equivalent to 2% of gross written motor premiums to an ex ante fund to be held by MIBI, to be known as the motor insurers insolvency compensation, MIIC, fund. The purpose of this payment is to build up a fund to enable industry to meet its 35% commitment in the event that a motor insurer is liquidated in the future. The contribution rate will be subject to an annual review by the Minister, and may be varied between 0% and 3% depending on factors such as the amount held in the MIIC fund and the likelihood of a call on that fund in line with the following parameters: an amount equivalent to 2% of gross written motor premiums until the MIIC fund reaches €150 million; reducing to a contribution equivalent to 1% until the MIIC fund reaches €200 million; and contributions to be then suspended until such time as there is a call on the fund. In the event of a significant call on the MIIC fund and there being insufficient moneys in the fund, the contribution can be increased to the equivalent of 3% of gross written motor premiums until the fund reaches €50 million, after which time a contribution equivalent to 2% of gross written motor premiums will again apply. It also sets out the circumstances in which payments will be paid out of the MIIC fund to the ICF. In the event of an insurer failing to make a contribution to the MIIC fund, MIBI may seek to recover the debt and may refer the matter to the Central Bank for regulatory action if deemed appropriate.

In Part 5, section 17 contains consequential amendments. This section amends the National Treasury Management Agency (Amendment) Act 2000 to provide the statutory basis for the State Claims Agency to carry out the additional functions given to it under this Bill.

I note the work of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach on the scrutiny of the general scheme of the Bill. I thank the committee for its detailed consideration of the proposals. Deputies will note that many of the committee's recommendations have been taken into account in the drafting of the Bill. For example, provisions have been made for the recovery of costs by the agencies involved - MIBI, Central Bank and the State Claims Agency. A mechanism has been provided for to make sure there is flexibility to change the levy in response to the amount held in the fund and other relevant regulatory considerations. The policy options in respect of other matters, such as the funding mechanism, were thoroughly examined in the regulatory impact analysis before the scheme was published. On the basis of this exercise, the preferred option was to establish an ex ante industry fund into which insurers would contribute an amount equivalent to 2% of gross written motor insurance premiums to be used to meet any future obligations in respect of motor insolvencies. This approach seeks to strike an appropriate balance between protecting policyholders affected by an insolvency and minimising the exposure of the Exchequer, particularly in the event of the insolvency of a larger insurer, while at the same time ensuring Ireland remains an attractive place for insurers to conduct business through the provision of as much certainty as possible to insurers operating in the State.

I reiterate the importance of the swift passage of this amending Bill to ensure full compensation can be paid to third-party claimants who have been waiting a long time for the resolution of this matter. I look forward to working with Deputies to bring this important legislative measure through the Houses of the Oireachtas as quickly as possible. I commend the Bill to the Dáil.

I would like to share time with Deputy Michael Moynihan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this Second Stage debate. I am pleased that this Bill has finally been introduced. Now that we have a chance to discuss it, its progress through the legislative process can commence in a meaningful way. It has to be acknowledged that over two years have passed since the review of the motor insurance compensation framework and over four years have passed since the collapse of Setanta Insurance. The Minister of State will confirm that along with other Deputies, I have pressed him on this issue consistently over recent years.

The consequences of the collapse of Setanta Insurance left many people in the lurch and in complete limbo. Claimants were and continue to be left short. Policyholders who took out valid insurance policies in this State from Setanta Insurance, which was principally regulated in Malta but regulated here for conduct of business purposes, faced the prospect of being held personally liable for any shortfall in claims made against their policies. People were getting letters from solicitors to advise them that judgments could be taken out against them in respect of any shortfall. Ultimately, such a judgment could be made against the mortgage on one's home. People were deeply fearful of what all of this might mean for them.

The nightmare is continuing for claimants. Over 1,500 active claims are associated with the collapse of Setanta Insurance. Not a single cent has yet been paid as compensation to approximately 750 claimants. A further 826 claimants have received the 65% limit set out under the insurance compensation fund. I welcome the fact that this Bill provides a statutory basis for dealing with this issue.

The Government committed in January that people caught up in the collapse of Setanta Insurance would have 100% of the cost of their claims met. That needs to happen. The Minister of State knows many stories of individuals, as do I. I got to know some of them quite well because they check in with me very often to learn the current state of play on the legislation. It is not an exaggeration to state some of them have had their lives on hold, in many cases for more than four years since the collapse of the company. In some cases, people have still not got anything seven or eight years after the accidents that led to their claims. This issue needs to be dealt with as a matter of priority.

With regard to the other central elements of the Bill, the Minister of State might elaborate, in wrapping up or later, on why a new insolvency compensation fund has to be established. Why is he not requiring the extra contributions to go into the insurance compensation fund, which was after all set up to deal with the failure of an insurance company. Why is there to be a separate fund under MIBI? If the Minister of State could address that issue, it would be very helpful.

While there is some good news in the pipeline for those caught up in the Setanta Insurance collapse, it does mean, in effect, another levy on policyholders. A 2% levy will be imposed in respect of non-life insurance policies. That is on top of the existing 2% levy paid into the insurance compensation fund and which is passed on directly to policyholders. It is also on top of the 3% stamp duty paid on non-life insurance policies and which has been paid since 1982. Therefore, there is stamp duty of 3%, a levy to the insurance compensation fund of 2% and a new levy going to the new insolvency fund of 2%. This amounts to 7%. Three percent is tax and the remaining 4% is in the form of a levy. I understand the insurance compensation fund is in deficit to the tune of more than €800 million and that the current amount collected from the existing 2% contribution to the fund is approximately €70 million per year. Therefore, it will be another 11 or 12 years before the legacy from the collapse of Quinn Insurance will be fully paid.

There is a real sting in the tail for consumers because we are all acutely aware of the challenges posed by the cost of insurance. This House has rightly deemed it to be a priority issue following on from the work of the cost of insurance working group, its recommendations and the work on employer and public liability insurance conducted in phase 2. As the Minister of State knows, the Oireachtas finance committee has dedicated considerable time and resources to focusing on the issue of insurance, particularly from a consumer perspective. That there is an extra levy needs to be put in context by the Minister of State. He should explain the overall numbers and the long-term plan. When the insurance compensation fund eventually washes its face, in a dozen years or so, will it be the Government's plan to build up more money in the fund, meaning that the 2% levy will remain in place indefinitely?

The new levy provided for in this Bill will reduce to zero eventually when a certain amount of money is collected in the fund. Consumers need to see light at the end of the tunnel when paying all these extra levies. It really is a moot point to state insurance companies do not have to pass on these levies to consumers. We all know that, in practice, they are passed on directly to policyholders in the form of an increased premium.

While there is oversight regarding the cost of motor insurance through the CSO data, there is no oversight regarding the cost of business insurance or insurance for sports clubs, community groups and voluntary bodies. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence of the really serious threat that is posed to so many businesses and voluntary, community and sports organisations, right down to the level of festival organisers, owing to the rising cost of insurance, especially public liability insurance. It seems that any activity or business that involves considerable public footfall faces increased premiums and, if not increased premiums, an increase in the excess in the policy or an increasing number of exclusions from the policy. That is a key issue.

We will continue to hold to account the Minister of State and the Government with respect to bringing about the necessary reforms needed right across the insurance industry, whether dealing with issues of data and transparency, getting the national claims information database in place quickly, benchmarking awards in Ireland against those in other jurisdictions through the working of the Personal Injuries Commission, or having a much more robust approach to dealing with fraudulent and exaggerated claims. We hope the Minister of State will get around, as a priority, to setting up the anti-fraud unit within An Garda Síochána in conjunction with his colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality with a view to focusing on insurance fraud. That is important also.

I would like the Minister of State, when concluding, to set out in practical terms when he expects this legislation to be enacted. He will have the co-operation and support of Fianna Fáil. We will engage constructively. We will bring forward amendments on Committee Stage but we want this legislation put into effect as quickly as possible. We are not going to reach Committee Stage this side of the recess but I hope and expect that this legislation will be regarded as a priority. As a member of the Select Committee on Finance, I will advocate that we prioritise this when we come back in the autumn so we can get to Report and Final Stages and have the Bill commence its journey through the Seanad.

In the Minister of State's concluding remarks, I would like him to state when he expects all the outstanding claims related to Setanta Insurance to be paid in full. That is information that people are waiting on. Could the Minister of State outline his intentions regarding the new levy, the proceeds of which will go into the insolvency fund? When can people expect that to be hitting their premium statements in the period ahead? How quickly after the enactment of this legislation does the Minister of State anticipate putting that into effect? That concludes my opening remarks. I look forward to engaging with the Minister and colleagues on this Bill in the autumn Committee Stage.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I compliment our finance spokesman, Deputy Michael McGrath, on the work he has done for those affected by the Setanta Insurance issue and on the amount of work he put into our Private Members' business.

I am disappointed the Government did not move a little faster on trying to pass the Bill in both Houses prior to the summer because people have been living a nightmare since the collapse of the insurance company. A number of issues arise in this regard. First, there are the difficulties the affected people have had regarding insurance and existing claims. Also to be considered is the legacy and the 2% levy to be imposed on insurance.

Society from top to bottom is concerned about how insurance is working and crippling people. Deputy Michael McGrath mentioned small festivals. Right across the spectrum, however, from vehicle owners, homeowners and those seeking public liability insurance to businesspeople, people have been very seriously affected by the rising cost of insurance. There is unanimity in this House on this issue and its seriousness. A series of legislative changes need to be made in the Houses to effect real and substantial change in the insurance industry.

The Minister of State is meeting people every day and attends meetings throughout the country so he must be encountering the same issue we encounter, which is that nobody appears to be getting to grips with the rising cost of insurance. A new group that was formed, the Business Insurance Reform Group, met the Minister of State last February when it was here for a Fianna Fáil Private Members' motion. That group seeks major change. It and other groups and businesses have sought substantial changes in different legislative measures in this regard. There have been reports on how the cost of insurance has stagnated in certain sectors of motor insurance, but that is not enough. What we need is an absolute understanding from the Government down that insurance is a challenge for everybody.

Last week, at a meeting in a nearby hotel, Members heard about problems people were having with regard to ten year old cars. That is another issue that has manifested itself. The logic of it is very difficult to understand. These cars are tested every 12 months and are deemed to be roadworthy yet a loading is imposed by the insurance industry. People who left this country in the past nine or ten years are returning from other countries and we welcome them back. They have been driving without claims in this jurisdiction and other jurisdictions over the years but they are being given loaded quotes of €3,000 and €4,000 for insurance policies. That is simply not good enough. This is one legislative measure to deal with a company that collapsed and left people who had paid their premiums high and dry. Industries and businesses are making calculated decisions not to take out insurance or pay an insurance premium. This is extremely dangerous. It is dangerous for them with regard to their personal liability, their homes and so forth.

We must have an insurance industry that works in this country. We have a growing population and a growing number of people are paying into an insurance pot. The logic of how insurance premiums are rising must be explained carefully and we must be shown how the formulas are done because it is challenging to know why the premiums are being loaded in many insurance companies. We must be very clear that if a person pays for an insurance policy and if there is a claim against that policy it must be explained to the policyholder why the claim has arisen and that it is up to the policyholder to contest it if the person so wishes. We have seen from television programmes and from the contributions of Members on all sides of the Houses of the Oireachtas, because everybody is hearing about it, that the policyholder is never informed until he or she goes to renew the insurance and then is met with a massive loading. That is simply not fair.

I wish to turn to the other sectors, such as the charity sector, festivals and local community events. Many of these people are operating without insurance. Many communities throughout the country are considering holding charity walks and so forth, which do great good in their communities. However, if the letter of the law was applied these events could not go ahead. Charity organisations have insurance, such as some of the service providers for people with intellectual disabilities. One of them is in Charleville in north Cork. St. Joseph's Foundation had an insurance premium of approximately €100,000 but over the last two years the cost of that premium has gone up to €580,000. This organisation is serving people across five Dáil constituencies in Cork, Kerry and Limerick. It has built up massive goodwill and provides a fantastic service. It has been innovative with regard to challenges on the autistic spectrum, animal training on Liskennet Farm and so forth. It is at the cutting edge. It is a voluntary board that is working its way through by raising funds and receiving a block grant from the HSE. There is another argument to be had in that regard.

However, its premium has gone from a little over €100,000 to €568,000. That is unacceptable. It looks at that premium and the challenges. Then we find that in some instances there is only one underwriter in the country and only one quote available. That is unsustainable. If we are to have an orderly society where insurance is in place, as it must be, the premiums must reflect the conditions and must be explained to the people who are putting their hands in their pockets and paying for the insurance policies. Some of the smaller community groups, sporting organisations, community centres and so forth that are seeking insurance are seeing their premiums escalating. They have to hold one fundraising event just to cover insurance. That is unacceptable.

I believe that this is the most important issue across the spectrum as it affects all age groups from the young to the elderly as well as the business community. The people who formed the Business Insurance Reform Group were here in their droves to make their case and tell their stories. Those stories have been aired on television and elsewhere since then. They told us their experiences and that they are at their wits' end trying to ensure they have proper policies in place. Many small businesses are seeking to expand, whether it is by putting more vehicles on the road or by expanding into different sectors or areas of their business. However, when they seek insurance and see the quoted premium they realise they cannot service that amount of insurance. There is no way that St. Joseph's Foundation in Charleville can continue with that insurance cost. It is more than €500,000 for a voluntary organisation that is fundraising to expand its services and for capital investment to provide badly needed houses and facilities for people and families. We can have another debate on the amount of money being given by the HSE, but its insurance policy has gone through the roof.

The single message the Minister of State should take from this debate is that we must see a desperate urgency at Government level on the insurance problem. Our spokesperson, Deputy Michael McGrath, has been lobbying on this for some time. It is a desperate problem across all sectors. For God's sake, can something be done about it at this point?

It is not lost on me or many other people that we are dealing with a Bill that will impose another charge on premiums on the day that David Drumm was given a suspended sentence in court for offering illegal loans to ten wealthy businessmen worth €450 million. Those loans, known as the "maple ten", originated from the fact that Seán Quinn of Quinn Insurance was betting on Anglo Irish Bank and built up a contract for difference of 28%. As he admitted, he was chasing his losses so he took €280 million out of Quinn Insurance to try to cover those losses. Today, everybody who has a non-life insurance policy is picking up his tab and the tab of the bankers who facilitated such schemes, while people walk free from it. For the past number of years we have picked up the tab. The cost of that tab was €1.15 billion. Irish consumers will be picking up that tab for many years to come. That puts the issue in context. We cannot continually revisit the fact that insurance companies are collapsing in this State because of dodgy regulation, criminal practices or alerts that should have been identified but were not acted on.

I welcome the Bill and the fact that we are finally discussing this issue. Three years ago I said from these benches that this is exactly what the Minister had to do. People were at their wits' end with their lives put on hold. They were entitled to major claims but there was a legal argument between the ICF and the MIBI and the State was picking up the legal tab as it went through the High Court and the Supreme Court. In the middle of all of this were the people who were injured in accidents and had legitimate claims, but who were not having those claims paid.

At that time, I made the point that we needed to amend the legislation to allow the ICF to pay out 100% and to remove the €825,000 threshold. Four years later, we are now dealing with that legislation. In April 2014, Setanta Insurance went into liquidation, which is over four years ago. As I established from communications with the Maltese authorities problems at Setanta were well now before then. The company was breaching its regulatory buffer as far back as 2011. In September 2013, the Central Bank was given the information about the company. A material shortfall in the reserves of the company was identified early in January 2014 and it was only ordered to stop selling insurance on 24 January 2014. From 2011 when the buffers were being breached to 24 January the company was on the brink but customers were still in the dark buying its insurance products. Many people were left high and dry in terms of claims. Many others who paid yearly premiums were also left high and dry and those premiums went down the drain. The most serious victims are those who have been waiting for what they are entitled to, namely, 100% of the claim for an accident in respect of which they were not at fault. I support the Bill because those claimants and victims have waited long enough. Some of them have received 65% of their claims but almost half have received nothing. Those who have received the 65% are still wondering when the Government will get its act together and get this legislation enacted so that the remaining 35% can be paid. I ask that in his closing remarks the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, would give us a date for the enactment of this legislation so that the remaining 35% can be paid.

There are wider issues that deserve full debate and scrutiny. It is striking how complex the proposed system is in this legislation in that it is begging from pot A to put into pot B, with pot C being refunded. I cannot help but think there is a more straightforward way of doing this. We know that other countries operate a single fund. This is an idea worthy of consideration but not one I would not want to hold up or stall this legislation. I welcome the transfer of administration of the fund from the Office of the Accountant of the Courts of Justice to the Central Bank such that the ICF will now rest with the Central Bank. This brings an accountability structure as funds that are under the courts are excluded from the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General and it is only right that such an important fund would come under the scrutiny of the State's financial watchdog. This is a massive fund. As I mentioned, the cost for Quinn Insurance is €1.15 billion and for Setanta Insurance is in excess of €100 million.

I am conscious that asking the Central Bank to look after everything is the default position, in particular when discussing the insurance industry. In giving the Central Bank additional tasks we need to provide it with additional staff and the resources to do the job properly. For this reason, I believe serious consideration needs to be given to finding an alternative body to run the national claims information database when established. A more critical reason is that, unfortunately, the Central Bank's mandate, or at least its interpretation of its mandate, is that stability trumps everything and, therefore, profitability of companies outweighs the rights of consumers. We all agree that transparency is essential if we are to see a real reduction in premiums but I am not convinced that the Central Bank is the body to take up the mantle of driver in this area. Therefore, serious considerations needs to be given to having the national claims information database housed with a different agency. However, we can have that discussion when that legislation becomes before us. The fact that it has not yet come before us tells its own story, and the priorities of the Government.

Following much public anger and good work by the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, the Government produced a report on the cost of rising motor insurance. Major elements of that report, like the national claims information database, remain unimplemented. The Government has taken its foot off the pedal on these issues, which is evident from the level of insurance premiums right across the business community and, in some cases, motor insurance also. During the pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill one of the issues raised was the fact that as MIBI will hold this fund it can be tapped into for public use. In other words, the public can call on this fund and the Minister of the day can direct the level of money that will go into the fund. This raises the question of whether MIBI too should now come under the lens of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I believe this is worthy of consideration.

When it comes to the industry and my experience of it, the maximum level of accountability and transparency is required. It has been placed in the position where reform is necessary but despite the rhetoric there is no reason to believe it has any interest in real reform. The insurers thrive in the world of spin, vagueness, legal costs and fraud, exaggerated claims and so on. All these are real issues. I acknowledge the sterling work done by some journalists, in particular Charlie Weston who has been running a series of articles on fraudulent claims and questionable claims. The front page of The Irish Sun reports that one of the Minister of State's colleagues is involved in what the courts called a questionable claim. There is a need for scrutiny of insurance fraud. Fraudulent insurance is theft and it needs to be dealt with as such. There is no doubt insurance fraud adds to insurance premiums. We know from former Governor Honohan's private correspondence to the previous Minister for Finance that the industry was lying to the Central Bank. This is the reason he called for reform of the law in this area. We know also that the industry gambled in the purchase of Government bonds and that when through quantitative easing those Government bonds reduced in terms of value to the insurance industry it left a major gap in terms of its funding.

I am opposed to allowing Insurance Ireland to fund our police service. It is terrible idea. I understand that at a time when there is huge pressures on premiums it is easy to go for the easy fix but An Garda Síochána needs to be independent and above reproach. The idea that private business would fund a section of the Garda Síochána is not a good one. It is a slippery slope. It must be remembered that the insurance industry in this city was subject to dawn raids not too long ago. It is under investigation by national authorities and by European authorities and yet we somehow think it is a good idea that it would fund a part of An Garda Síochána. This is not the way to go. If it needs to be taxed and brought into the general taxation system then we should do that and use that money to fund the services. It is more than 12 months since those raids took place. As I said, they are subject to anti-competitive practices in terms of the investigations that are ongoing.

Insurance fraud is theft and it must be pursued rigorously and prosecuted. More action needs to be taken to stamp out insurance fraud, including by way of establishment of a specialised Garda insurance fraud unit and the introduction of a new offence of insurance fraud but this must be paid for by the central Exchequer and not private business interests. Just as important is challenging the insurance industry to stop settling suspicious claims. It is important that claims deemed to be suspicious or fraudulent are reported and acted upon. My legislation, which I touched on earlier, provided that those in the industry would be subject to imprisonment if found to be lying to the Central Bank. As we know, the industry has done so in the past, as reported by the former Governor to the previous Minister for Finance. This is the type of action we need, and more of it, to keep this industry on the straight and to ensure that it reduces premiums.

Returning to one of the core areas of this Bill to help reduce premiums, for years we have been told that one of the reasons for the 70% increase that occurred over a three year period was the uncertainty around what would happen in another Setanta-type collapse. This is what the industry told us was the reason for it increasing premiums to the level it did. Through this legislation, we now have a roadmap for reducing premiums but are not hearing the insurers commit to reducing premiums to previous levels or anywhere near those levels.

The excuse has been removed and the solution has been given but there is no commitment from the industry.

One issue not addressed in the Bill which needs to be considered on Committee Stage relates to the changes to the waterfall of preferences in the liquidation processes. The ideal in cases such as Setanta would be that claimants get priority in the liquidation process and that, to the maximum degree possible, the process meets the majority of claims. The ICF or MIBI could pay upfront and then recoup the moneys during the liquidation process. That would be preferable to having to wait for a long period to deal with this.

I see no reason for applying an extra 2% levy to premiums. This move provides the certainty the industry claimed it needed and it sets an insurance policy for itself. Over the longer term this new fund is supposed to save money for the industry and therefore this levy should not be placed on customers' insurance premiums.

I would like to go through much more on this legislation, but we will have time to do that on Committee Stage. I urge the Minister of State to ensure the Bill gets through these Houses with the appropriate scrutiny as quickly as possible.

I will be sharing time with Deputy Munster.

As the motor insurance business affects thousands of people's lives, how the State regulates it is very important. The State in some aspects is not acting to protect people. I wish to highlight the effect on rural dwellers and low-income workers who need a car for work. Last week I attended a briefing on insurance by the motor industry. We were presented with the shocking reality of people being refused insurance despite having a valid NCT certificate. I get complaints about that in my constituency office every week from people who cannot get insurance simply because their cars are more than ten years old. This is being used by the motor insurance industry to either not give a quote or give astronomical quotations. It is putting people under huge pressure to buy new cars or putting people off the road completely. It disproportionately affects rural dwellers and low-income workers who need a car for work.

More than 77,000 cars more than ten years old were scrapped in 2017, an increase of 49% on 2016. From an environmental and financial point of view, this represents a loss to the Exchequer. It accelerates the devaluation of cars, particularly cars more than ten years old. It increases CO2 emissions because the CO2 emissions created by manufacturing a new car is equal to what is pumped out of the exhaust pipe of a car over 160,000 km, as shown by a recent report. That needs to be factored in. It causes a reduction in rural mobility and particularly causes problems for the people who need their cars for work, the people who the Taoiseach says get up early in the morning and whom we need to look after.

There is no logic in this. These cars have passed their NCT every year. There is also evidence to show that older cars are not on the roads as much. Someone with a car that is 12 or 13 years old is not doing 50,000 km like some of us are doing. I always drove an old car until I was elected to this House and then I discovered that an old car would not stick the going so I had to get a new car. My point is that older vehicles are not on the road as much.

Once a car has passed its NCT, that is it; it is in good condition. The NCT is very thorough and very professionally done. There is no reason to take these cars off the road. In Australia it is common for cars 20 years old to be driven around and the same is true in parts of Europe. Therefore it cannot continue. While we support the Bill, I am using this opportunity to highlight the issue to the Minister of State. I want the Government to do something about it. This is in the interests of motorists. We talk about protecting rural Ireland; this is in the interests of rural Ireland.

I do not advocate having bangers driving around that are not fit to be on the road. I am advocating a bit of common sense here. At the moment the insurance companies are picking the pockets of low-income workers and those people living in country areas who need their cars to get to places such as Portlaoise, Tullamore, Edenderry or elsewhere in the morning. That is exactly what is happening and we need to stop it. I want the Government to give serious consideration to this and to put a stop to it.

I welcome the Bill which has been a long time coming. In the case of Setanta customers, it has been more than four years. It is simply unacceptable that private insurance companies in this State can become insolvent without their customers being protected. I commend the work of my colleagues, particularly Deputy Pearse Doherty and others, on pushing for this Bill to ensure customers are treated fairly when these companies fail. It is only right that they are compensated in full and that customers in future can be confident that they will be protected should another insurance company fold.

The legislation to establish the motor insurance insolvency compensation fund is therefore a welcome development. The Government operates a system of mandatory motor insurance, which is only right, but it leaves the regulation of that sector to the market, meaning that the State opts out. For-profit companies are left to operate as they see fit, which inevitably has led to the utterly dysfunctional market we know.

Every other week my office receives calls from motorists who are unable to insure their vehicles due to the outrageous rip-off quotations received from insurance companies. Many people, especially those in rural areas cannot go about their daily lives without the use of a car. As we well know, public transport is lacking and they have no choice. Others drive for a living or need to drive as part of their jobs. We know that premium quotes are outrageously high for some, especially those with cars older than ten years. Insurance companies like to claim that this is because of fraud, which is the fault of drivers. While, of course, we know fraud is a problem, it is not the cause of a dysfunctional insurance market.

The market is as it is because the sector was not regulated in a proper fashion. When it came under pressure during the recession the companies hiked up the cost to cover themselves. That is the fault of the companies and the market. It is also the fault of the Government for washing its hands of this issue. While I welcome the Bill, I would like the Government to examine other issues in the insurance sector. The current system is grossly unfair and is causing great hardship for thousands of people.

I call Deputy Michael Collins, who is sharing with Deputies Mattie McGrath and Danny Healy-Rae.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill, which seeks to amend and extend the law relating to insolvent insurers and to provide for the establishment of a fund to be known as the motor insurance insolvency compensation fund. This fund will be controlled and managed by the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland. Vehicle insurers will be asked to make a contribution to that fund. What effect will this have on people's premiums?

As we are all aware, in recent years insurance costs have become totally unjustified and unsustainable. They are placing huge financial pressure on people and businesses. These rising insurance premiums simply cannot go on. We are hearing a lot of sympathy for young people this week, but we did not hear much sympathy for them last week. When getting insurance, every obstacle is being put in front of them. On the one hand we criminalise their parents if they drive on their own. If they are lucky enough to get a driving test and pass it, they are then being hit with out-of-control quotes for insurance which they cannot afford. It is very difficult for young people to get off the ground.

As other Deputies have said already, I am inundated with constituents coming to me distressed and upset over the quotes they are getting for motor insurance. Some of them get no quote if they have a car more than ten years old. We need insurance companies to be transparent and to explain why they are increasing their customers' premiums. Insurance companies are in total control of what is going on. Nobody has any control over them; they are a law onto themselves. Fraud and exaggerated claims need to be clamped down on. There should be zero tolerance for these types of claims and we need to ensure they are pursued and tackled more aggressively by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and insurance companies.

Owners of cars of ten years and older are being penalised with huge insurance premiums. Why are these motorists quoted these high premiums as we have the NCT to ensure all vehicles are roadworthy? Why is the owner of a car of ten years or older getting such an excessively high insurance quotation and in many cases not getting any quotes when compared with the owner of a similar car that is newer?

Another important point to mention regarding motor insurance is people returning to Ireland after living abroad who are now accessing motor insurance and being quoted very high premiums. We should be welcoming back people who have decided to return home and ensuring they are not priced out of the market. We should also look at businesses and community organisations. Many have been forced out of business. Nightclub owners are at the end of their tether.

We need to see urgent action. The time for talking is over. Action on the ground is needed. In Kilbrittain secret gardens, the O'Mahony family has put a huge amount of money into building a fantastic activity centre enjoyed by many children throughout west Cork. Their insurance bill this year went from €4,000 to €5,000 to close to €25,000. They employ more than 20 people in a rural community. They cannot sustain it. They will take the hit for one year but will go out of business the next year and we are standing idly by as politicians. We are doing an awful lot of talking. I have been talking about this for two and a half years and nothing is happening on the ground. The bottom line is people are paying excessively high insurance premiums and we need to look at ways to reduce these premiums as insurance prices are not sustainable.

I am delighted to speak on the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2018 which was published on 19 June. The House is rising this week and nothing has been done about insurance during the tenure of the Minister of State or that of his predecessor or even before that. We promise and promise. We are being robbed left, right and centre. It is extortion. A person cannot go without it. He or she has to have it but when it comes to the fine print, that person has nothing. I am sick and tired of talking about it. A committee was set up and there was a report containing 79 recommendations. It was nothing short of a fudge. It was a total and absolute fudge. Nine actions would be too many. Maybe two or three would be implemented. The Government does not want to do it. There is no appetite in the Government to tackle the cartels. That is the situation across the line because they are all supporting the Government. It is a sad day.

I am old enough to remember when PMPA went into liquidation and the levy that went on and was never taken off. Now we have the issues with Quinn Insurance and Setanta Insurance. Deputy Michael McGrath gave the numbers earlier. He mentioned €800 million. People have been left high and dry. Many thousands are waiting and waiting. They cannot afford to wait. They are not big business people. They are ordinary families trying to eke out a living, educate their children, do their business and stay within the law. The Government is passing more legislation. The public will get a break from it after tomorrow because the Government will be away from here for two months so there will be no more regressive legislation passed. The Bill the Government is passing is demonising and weighing down self-employed people and ordinary families. It is evidence of the Government's failure and ineptitude in dealing with the insurance companies.

I am a small businessman like my colleagues, but I am more involved in the community and voluntary sector and it is being crucified and blackguarded. Many events have been cancelled because of insurance costs. Many wonderful events which were wonderful days for our people, especially in weather such as this, have been cancelled because of insurance costs. Everything is about insurance. There are assessors waiting. That is not to mention car insurance, fleet insurance or lorry insurance.

Why can we not go to Europe or the world market to get insurance? Why are we stuck here with a limited number of companies that can treat us like dirt? If a person rings up an insurance company, he or she has to press button after button because all the offices have been removed. The office of AXA Insurance will leave Clonmel in Tipperary very soon. It is not possible to engage with a person. We had a broker before whom we could deal with but now we are talking to machines and robots and we are told the call is being recorded for training purposes. They want to record everything but it is all one-way traffic. We cannot record what they say. It is just obstacle after obstacle. When the proposals in the Bill are up and running, there will be a 7% levy but 3% of it is tax and 2% goes elsewhere. That is punitive.

Insurance companies are now giving two fingers to the national car test, NCT, system. I have a lot of issues with the Road Safety Authority, RSA, but the NCT is one of the things I agree with. There are people with cars that have valid NCTs and have passed the test but the insurance companies are rejecting them. The driving testers are rejecting them. They are saying there is something wrong with them. What standing does the NCT have if insurance companies and driving testers say a car is not fit even though it passed the NCT the day before?

The haulage industry is being crippled. Last week we heard about the Ponzi fund racket in which people have to keep buying a car every four years and then trade it in. We are trying to bring in legislation on electric cars which Deputy Ryan and the Minister, Deputy Naughten, are championing. They are talking about lowering emissions and lowering toll charges for fully electric cars when we are having all these cars crushed. What about the pollution and CO2 emissions generated by that? Our right hand does not know what our left hand is doing. That is the extent of it.

The attack on ordinary families is merciless and continuing. It should not be allowed to go on. There is an issue for nightclubs. Bar room owners were here recently. They told us insurance has gone up 100%, 200% and 300%. It is like phone book numbers. Then a claim goes in and the minute a claim goes in, an excess is put on the policy. There is excess on the policy anyway but there is a charge then to take account of an impending bad outcome.

The Government has refused steadfastly to tackle that big building down on the quays, the Four Courts, where all the murky business goes on and where all the deals are done. People are dragged along. I have been there many a time myself. People tell their insurance companies that it is a fraudulent claim and they do not want them to pay out. One comes along like a good boy and turns up for several sessions in the High Court only to find out the legal eagles have had a cup of tea together and a chat. It is a "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" attitude or one of "You rub soap to my something and I'll rub soap to yours". The Minister of State knows what I am talking about. The attitude is to hell with him, he is only the punter, he will pay anyway because his insurance company is going to pay. It is about the greasy paws of the legal system. The free legal aid racket will not be tackled. It is a revolving door.

The Minister of State will have to tackle the insurance industry. I have no faith in this. We are rising this week and will wait until we come back in September. It will be October before it will be on the agenda again. I have no faith in it. A lot of this is very aspirational. It is about preliminary measures and a general scheme. It is legal jargon obviously done up by the legal adviser for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is giving all the cards to the insurance companies. Let the buyer beware. Let the taxpayer and insurance payer beware. He or she will have to pay anyway.

We have mentioned young people trying to get on the road. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh siad is a wonderful saying. We are not doing much of it here. We are persecuting them. We did it last week on legislation and the Minister, Deputy Ross, is now proclaiming we were vandals to be opposing legislation and using the filibuster which is one of the oldest traditions in democracies all over the world. That man has gone off the radar and off the Richter scale. He should deal with some of the issues in road transport which the RSA will not deal with. They are flagrantly abusing people. We passed legislation that criminalised people who want to stay within the law but cannot because they cannot get a driving test. Is that fair? It is the same with insurance. They cannot get insurance. The Government would love to tell them all they can get it.

What about the famous leader, St. Leo, the Taoiseach, when he talks about full employment? How will the people in rural Ireland get to the employment? How are they going to go to apprenticeships if they get apprenticeships? How will they go? Will it be by air or kangaroo or something? We need a gluaisteán. We need people to learn how to drive a gluaisteán.

To hell or to Connacht is the attitude of the Government to people in rural Ireland. That is not to mention the people who want to go to the pub for a social drink. We will park that issue. To hell with them. They are consigned to a future of depression and being locked away. Our young people who want to have lives, education and career paths cannot because they have no Luas, DART, bus, bicycle scheme or taxis. The Government is not interested in rural Ireland but rural Ireland will be interested in the Government. I do not know if the Government will get another confidence and supply agreement from the boys here on my right. I do not know if the Government will or not. I do not have much confidence in the Government or Fianna Fáil because they are voting for the same legislation which is regressive towards rural Ireland and especially towards young people. They will be waiting. Most of them are registered to vote.

The Deputy is wandering away a bit.

I am not. It is the Insurance (Amendment) Bill. I am nearly finished.

I understand the Deputy's enthusiasm but he is wandering.

I am just saying this is toothless, fruitless and useless like the regulators before it and like some of the Ministers.

I thought that after two and a half years something would be done to help young people to get insurance at a reasonable cost. I gave several weeks to discussing the programme for Government and pulled out before I had finished because most of the stuff I was putting into it was being pulled out as fast as we were putting it into it. I did, however, think the Government would do something about insurance. It has the power to do something about the cost of insurance, the cost of claims and all of the racket that is going on, but it is doing nothing about them. There is nothing in the Bill that will help the ordinary young person on the road today or who will try to go on the road tomorrow to get insurance at a reasonable cost. All I can see is that there will be a percentage added to insurance premiums to help insurance companies to go wallop as they have been doing. We all saw clearly after Quinn Insurance went out of business how the cost of insurance went up. Surely the Government can also see that they now have a monopoly. There is no one competing with them; they are all doing the same and offering the same price.

Will the Minister of State do something about the business of ten-year-old cars which are perfect in every way, with a low mileage and doing a low mileage, for which the insurance companies will not quote? Will he talk to them and did he talk to them? He will not talk to them because it is clear that if he did, he would get some results. Quotes for older people are being doubled from €400 to €800 or €900. Young fellows who deserve a chance to go on the road for the first time are being quoted €3,500, €5,000 or €6,500. How can they manage to pay that sum? I am talking about people living in rural Ireland who do not have a bus, DART or taxi service or access to any public service. The Government talks about seven or eight bus routes that it has added to Rural Link in County Kerry. For what will that cater?

It may be wrong for me to point my finger or direct my venom at the Minister of State, but where is the rest of his gang who were here in numbers last Friday clapping for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross? Where are they tonight? Why are they not all here listening to this debate on the serious matter of insurance for people who do not want to break the law and need insurance to go on the road to get to work, their apprenticeship or college? There is no holding them here tonight, but they will clap for the Minister all right when he ensures more people will have to stay at home, thumb or cycle from vast distances into towns.

Business people are being hit by the cost of claims. In England someone who suffers a whiplash injury will receive £7,600. In Ireland, for a very minor injury, someone will receive €19,400 and the figure has been known to go up to €77,000. They must have brass necks or gold necks. It is very unfair to think that is happening here and that the Government has been told about it before, but it has done nothing and will do nothing about it. It is two and a half years since it promised that it would. I thought that in this Bill it was going to sort out verything to do with insurance, but there is nothing in it. The Government is only codding the people. It told lies and I mean that. A few weeks ago it stated the cost of insurance had gone down by 17%.

The Deputy should not accuse the Minister or anyone else of telling lies.

They were untruths. I am not naming any particular man, but the rumour was spread by the Government that the cost of insurance had gone down by 17%. That is certainly not true. There are all sorts of racket going on. If an area is designated by the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme as being in danger of being flooded, owners of houses in its vicinity will not get house insurance. There have not been floods there and will not be, but it is stated the area may be flooded in the next 50 years. In the meantime people will not able to get insurance. That is happening and has happened in County Kerry. More places will now be designated as flood plains and walls will be built around them to hold the water, rather than clearing out rivers. In the meantime the people living all around the area will not be able to get house insurance. That is what is going on.

We had one great event in County Kerry, but it is not going ahead this year. Local communities need these yearly events, whether it be a music festival, a carnival, or whatever else.

They cannot get insurance. One event is not going ahead this year because it could not get insurance. It was a mighty event that brought people from all over south Kerry to it, but it will not go ahead this year.

I hope it is not Puck Fair.

Is it Puck Fair?

No, it is not Puck Fair, but it was a mighty event.

It is not the Rose of Tralee, is it?

Many people were involved in it and gave much of their time doing voluntary work, but they could not take the chance and go ahead this year because they could not get insurance. This is the Minister of State's and the Government's time. They should be doing something about the cost of insurance for young and old, but they are not. It has all kinds of Bill to see after Ross because he will see after the Government and will keep it in power for a few days longer, but he could blow with the wind and go out from under the Government at any time and leave it high and dry. I ask the Minister of State not to bring him to the door with the Government because he is not wanted in County Kerry. His name should not be mentioned at all because he is hated for what he has done to people living in rural Ireland.

The Deputy should, please, not be unfair to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross.

I am not being unfair, but I was out last weekend and got the lot of it. People are very disappointed. Now another set of people will be equally disappointed. They are the ones who cannot pay the cost of insurance and the Government is not doing anything about it. I am afraid that it will not do anything about it, but I am pleading with the Minister of State not to ignore our pleas because we know what is happening on the ground. The Government should be doing something about the cost of insurance.

I am also a rural Deputy. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae has mentioned much of what is happening in his part of County Kerry. I am from a neighbouring constituency and we are seeing continuing high prices in the cost of motor insurance around the country. I believe the statistic of a 17% drop on average comes from the Central Statistics Office.

Deputy Mattie McGrath should not run out. He will want to hear my response.

I share people's frustration at the cost of car insurance. I was an immigrant who came back, but I was walloped for not having a no claims bonus. That is how I got into this issue. In the 2016 general election this was a major issue on the doorsteps and it continues to be. Because of that the Government reacted and set up the cost of insurance working group. I have been working behind the scenes with the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, and his predecessor who is now the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy. We want to make this happen. We want to do what we can to make it happen, but in trying to do so we are encroaching on and working with the private sector. There are several anomalies. The Government is on one side; the insurance companies are on another, while the Judiciary are on another. There are several pillars involved. There has been a change of culture in the insurance companies because they use more sophisticated systems to segment the market.

These strands were never segmented before. This allows insurance companies to concentrate on the vehicle, the age of applicants, demographics, emigrants - they never had them before because they never came home. They now use these various segments to gain competitive advantage. That culture has crept in, as I know from talking to people and receiving their feedback.

I quizzed representatives of Insurance Ireland for 15 minutes at a committee three weeks ago on some of the issues raised by previous speakers. I am not convinced by some of the answers they provided given the anecdotal feedback I have received on the ground. I will give some examples. Sales representatives who have been on the road for 15 years and are insured under an employer's group insurance policy are told when they seek insurance in their own name that they do not have a no claims bonus built up because it is the first time they have ever had insurance. The advice given to them is to get a slip of paper or confirmation from the insurance company that provided cover to the company they worked for previously and present that to their new insurance company. What is being pushed back on them now is that because they cannot prove they did not have an accident, because it was a group policy, they are still being charged the same. That is not fair play. That is not the Government's fault though. It is private enterprise pushing back.

Where is the regulator?

Order, please.

There is an anomaly straightaway. There is also the issue of ten year old cars. Given that these cars have been tested under the NCT procedure, I cannot see any reason they should not be on the road. I have been told there are data on this but I have not seen any to justify the current position. We need to have the national claims information database in place in order that all the data are available and the system is open and transparent. I ask the insurance companies and Insurance Ireland to work with us as much as possible. The Minister of State will soon publish the relevant legislation, which should be pushed through the Dáil as quickly as possible. I ask the insurance companies to work with us. I keep getting responses mentioning commercial sensitivity. I understand that but it is being used as a catch-all or a stick to beat us with when we are trying to get these data. If it does stack up, that is fine, we will have to deal with that some other way. We should at least see the data to allow us to address the matter.

We have also had problems in respect of business insurance. Businesses are being quoted higher premiums and then finding out or being told that a claim has been made. That communication process and style is a simple thing that needs to be changed. Road hauliers are another group feeling the effect. The Government backed road hauliers because exports were one of the first parts of the economy to recover. The Government realised that help with tax cuts three or four years ago, if I remember off the top of my head. They are now again feeling the effect of insurance on their business. Exports and road haulage are a big part of our economy and the issue of insurance is now having a significant impact on them.

We have to address this issue, which is coming back from the private sector. We must take a unified position and push back on the private sector in respect of what is happening here. We need to speak with one voice because if I know the private sector, it is trying to divide and conquer us anyway in what we are trying to do. There is a public relations battle going on here and I urge the House to pull together on this and try to push measures through as quickly as possible, specifically the national claims information database which will give us the information we need.

Drivers in rural areas are feeling the impact of insurance costs. People starting college and driving for the first time are able to get a car more easily than before. The price of insurance, however, is crippling them. In Limerick, for example, people from County Limerick will drive into the University of Limerick or Limerick Institute of Technology because they are not far, relatively speaking, and it makes more sense economically to drive to college than to stay in the city. They can live and perhaps work at home but the insurance price is also starting to hurt these people.

There are a number of facets to this issue. We need to maintain the momentum of the cost of insurance working group. We also need to examine and debate trying to benchmark claims in respect of the Judiciary. We must also address the fraud and claims culture, of which we have seen some examples. There are different strands to be tackled.

I hear what Opposition Deputies are saying. We all hear the same things on the ground but there is no simple solution. Different strands have to be pulled together and major bodies of work have to done. I want to see that done as quickly as possible and I want to push that as quickly as possible. I ask the Minister of State to convey to the Cabinet our desire to have the issue of insurance costs prioritised. It is a real and live issue and, for want of a better word, one of the lowest common denominators on the ground because it affects almost everybody.

I call Deputy Eugene Murphy, who is sharing with Deputy Eamon Scanlon.

I am speaking on the same issue, the same difficulties and the same problems as previous speakers. I refer to the collapse of insurance companies. People believe they have insurance cover for a year and then a company collapses, as happened with Setanta Insurance, and they have to seek to be reinsured. Many have still not received compensation following the collapse of Setanta four years ago. We should remember in this debate that many people are on low income. When a person pays €700, €800, €900 or maybe €1,000 - or even €500 or €600 in the case of someone on low income, a blow such as the collapse of an insurance company creates more problems. Sometimes people shop around and believe they are getting a good deal. If the company collapses, however, they find they have to go to their credit union and refinance their insurance policy. This issue must be tackled quickly.

I welcome this Bill but this has been a long process for such an urgent issue. People simply cannot wait. It will probably be a long time before this legislation is passed because the Dáil will wrap up for the summer on Thursday. I presume the Bill will be before the House again early in the autumn and we will try to deal with it as quickly as we can. In the meantime, many people are frustrated, annoyed and coming into our clinics. I am sure the Minister of State is well aware of that.

Insurance costs mean that people are not able to get insurance. There is a serious problem with the whole insurance business. While we are focusing specifically on motor insurance, business and flood insurance are also a problem. The whole insurance business must be reviewed. In recent months, we have seen raids on certain insurance businesses and there is an ongoing investigation. It would be interesting to find out when that investigation will come to a conclusion and what will be the outcome. Every aspect of the insurance business needs to be addressed.

Like Deputy Mattie McGrath, I welcome the Bill and my great wish is that it can be dealt with as quickly as possible. I have an issue with the 2% levy. While I accept there has to be a fund because there is no such thing as a free dinner, I want to know for how many years the levy will apply. Has this been calculated? It must not become a permanent fixture in insurance costs.

We heard many examples this evening of what people are suffering in the motor sector. Insurance for taxis can now cost anything from €5,000 to €14,000 and some companies will not even quote for taxis. We have all heard the stories of young people. I often talk about my daughter who has a full driver's licence and has never been involved in a crash or other incident. A decent car can be obtained for €3,000 or €4,000 but the best quote somebody like my daughter and many of her friends can get is for €5,000 or €6,000. This is a serious problem for students, young workers and people living in rural Ireland where there is not the same level of public transport. I am sure the Minister of State sees it in his own county of Wexford.

The issue of returning emigrants also arises. They seem to have major difficulty in getting insurance cover, or have to pay an exorbitant fee for it, even if they have a good, clean record. The issue also affects lorry drivers and road hauliers. It is a fact that many road hauliers are based outside the country, in other parts of Europe, which causes Ireland to lose business. The hauliers say that they simply cannot afford it.

It is great to hear so many contributions on the issue of ten year old cars. They might have a full NCT and a very low mileage. I raised this issue in this House approximately ten months ago. I made the point at the time that there are many ten year old cars with low mileage, particularly those owned by people living in cities who do not run up large mileages. These cars are in perfect condition and fly through the NCT. So many young people, in particular, are disappointed when they look for insurance; they are told that companies cannot insure a ten year old car. We are living in the era of NCTs, which is a good practice. It forces us to look after our cars more carefully; we have to. I fully endorse the process. However, there are people who put their car, which is in perfect condition, through the NCT, who then go to the insurance company and cannot get cover. I am sure that the Minister of State knows this from his own constituency.

We are in a crisis situation in terms of the insurance industry. I welcome this Bill, arriving as it does in the last days before the summer recess. However, it is extremely important that it is pursued with absolute vigour in the autumn. The approach of the Government, and I do not mean this as an attack on the Minister of State because I know he means well in this area, has been extremely frustrating and slow. It is a complex area, and I am not going to deny that, but motor insurance premiums have shot up by 31% since 2012. That is a fact. There is currently no index tracking business insurance costs. Despite this, the major recommendations of the cost of insurance working group have yet to be acted upon. There are many issues to deal with, and in the meantime people are suffering, unable to get cover. This must be tackled as a matter of urgency.

Like many other Deputies in this House, I am concerned at the slow pace of progress on this issue. We will speak again about flood insurance and business insurance but the Bill this evening deals with motor insurance. The Government must realise that this is a huge issue for many people, and must be progressed as quickly as possible. The Bill raises a number of issues in terms of the compensation fund, which has been well explained in the details. I do not have an issue with that, and generally accept the levy issue. I do not want it to become a permanent levy on everyone, but I am a realist and know that a fund has to be in place. I urge the Minister of State to pursue this issue with vigour, and ask him to go back to his senior Cabinet colleagues to ensure we progress this issue as quickly as possible. There are many people out there who are trapped due to insurance issues and the cost of insurance. In many situations, they cannot get insurance cover at all.

Much of what I am going to say has already been said, but it is important that it is said. I want to compliment my college, Deputy Michael McGrath, because he has pursued this for many years. Quite a number of people were badly affected by what happened to Setanta Insurance. At least 1,500 people have been left in limbo for the past number of years, not knowing where they were going to go. They were stressed out. They received legal letters, and wondered what their future was going to be. I am glad that issue is being dealt with at the moment.

I am aware that there are no free dinners. Someone is going to have to pick up the tab for this, which is unfortunate, but it is the right thing to do. Quinn Insurance has added 2%, and another 2% will now be added on top, plus 3% tax. That amounts to a 7% increase overall. I would like to think that this levy will be abolished as soon as this fund has been collected. It is important that happens. I am old enough to remember PMPA insurance and the levy that was put in place at the time to sort that problem out. I do not believe that levy was ever removed. Perhaps it was; the Minister of State might let me know. It is important that when the required moneys are collected the levies are removed.

There has been much talk about claims and the cost of insurance, particularly around motor insurance and motor insurance claims. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, was brought in by this House in 2009. PIAB did its job for a number of years. It worked. It brought down the cost of claims and insurance, particularly for young people. The way young people are treated in terms of insurance has been mentioned tonight, and I believe it is very unfair. Every young person who seeks insurance today is treated like a road hog. The quotes they get for insurance are very unfair. There are many very good young people out there who are willing to work. They can buy a car, but cannot pay for the insurance. That is the unfortunate, sad thing. I come from south Sligo, which is a rural constituency, much like that of the Minister of State. If people want to get to work they have to get a lift from someone who is travelling close to their work, or a lift from their parents, which is often not easy. They need transport. There is no such thing as a bus, DART or Luas in my constituency and in many others around the country. It is discriminatory against these young people. I believe they need help. PIAB worked, but unfortunately the legal profession, over a period of time, wound it out. The facility is not being used as much as it should be now, and claims have crept up.

One day a car rolled back and hit the front of my car. There was no damage done whatsoever. I got out and looked at it and found no damage to my car or the other car. Everything was fine. My no claims bonus was protected. I eventually discovered that the person who owned the car that rolled into mine was paid €36,000. That is a fact. I only found out by accident. I insisted that my car and the other car were inspected by the insurance company and was told that there was no damage to either car. This is the type of thing that is going on. I am glad to see that in recent times these insurance claims are being investigated and stopped. They are robbing everyone in this country, and it is only right that such claims are stopped.

The issue of ten year old cars was mentioned. It is important that it is mentioned as often as possible. We all drive on the roads every day. A car might overtake us, and we might have to add up the years to figure out how old it is. A car that looks well and is driving well could be 13, 14 or 15 years old if it is well looked after, well serviced and taken for an NCT regularly. Believe it or not, 147,000 people in this country own cars which are over ten years old. There are many reasons for that, one of which is affordability. Other reasons include that cars today, which are well serviced, will last for 15, 16 or 17 years. It is outrageous that insurance companies inflate premiums for people driving these cars. It is legal robbery.

Most of the people who have these cars look after them. If they did not, they would not be in the condition that they are in. What is being done is outrageous.

Moreover, this is affecting rural areas and rural jobs. It is affecting the small garages that employ three or four people in small towns like Ballymote, Tubbercurry, Gurteen and other places like that. It is affecting jobs there. It is affecting the person supplying the tyres for those cars. Little businesses have built up throughout the rural areas servicing that type of business. This phenomenon is taking jobs away. That is exactly what it is doing. It should not be allowed to happen, because it is forcing people to change their car more often. That is the reason.

Something else it will do, which people do not yet realise, is devalue the six year old, seven year old or eight year old car. What is that car going to be worth? Nothing, quite honestly, if they get away with what they are doing. It is outrageous, and a lot more should be done to make sure that they do not get away with it.

I refer also to public liability insurance. The haulage business was mentioned in that context. I have a friend who employs 42 people in the haulage business. His insurance premium went from €70,000 to €140,000. That is a fact. Will the Minister of State imagine taking out his chequebook and writing a cheque for €140,000 just to stay in business and keep employing 42 people? There is no support for those people. They get no support whatever. In fairness to them, they do not want it provided they get a level playing field. They are definitely not getting that today where insurance is concerned. It is outrageous, quite honestly.

The other issue that was mentioned was people returning home. If someone has been away from the country for three years and comes back, they are new again as far as motor insurance is concerned. That is not fair to people. As was said by the Minister of State's colleague, Deputy Neville, some people work in a company and drive a company car for ten, 15 or 20 years. They may have 20 years' worth of no-claims bonuses. When they retire from work, purchase a car for themselves and try to get insurance for the car, the same company tells them they are starting out again. That is outrageous carry-on. They should not be allowed to do what they are doing.

Another issue is driving licences. I know it is not the Minister of State's brief, but people are coming back to this country and we welcome them back. If I come from Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia or England, I can exchange my licence in that country for an Irish licence. If I come from America, however, I cannot exchange an American licence from an Irish licence unless I come from one of three states. People coming from America have to start off again with a provisional licence. Thanks to the Bill passed through the Dáil last week by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, even though they might have driven for 40 or 50 years, they have to have a fully licensed driver with them until they can do their test. This is the nonsense that is going on. Quite honestly, it has to stop. I know the Minister of State is a decent individual, and I hope that he carries the message loud and clear to the senior Ministers of this Government so that this can be dealt with fairly.

While I welcome this Bill to the House, it is unsatisfactorily late for the people who suffered in the Setanta Insurance debacle. That includes both those who were insured with Setanta, and those who were involved in accidents, in which they were not at fault, with people who were insured with Setanta. They were left hanging for years on end. The way that this issue was dealt with was very unsatisfactory.

My view of life is that if people comply with the law, if people buy products that are meant to be checked by regulation, either at European or national level, they are innocent victims and should not be hung out to dry like those injured parties in accidents involving somebody who was insured with Setanta, whether the damages they suffered consisted of vehicular damage or personal injuries. Then there are the people who thought they had insurance with Setanta. They were also left hanging with no money.

If I were asked what the biggest change in recent years has been, and it is one thing I have noticed about the world, I would say it is the amazing ability to do everything very slowly, to make everything so complicated that we can never seem to get to a conclusion on any issue. If the public are left waiting, so what? That seems to be the attitude. It should not be the attitude. These are ordinary human beings going about their ordinary daily business, following the law and doing everything perfectly. As I have said, in many cases they were not insured with Setanta themselves but they were involved in an accident with someone who was. Even that person was innocent because they thought they had good, valid insurance.

I look at all the schemes that come in now such as housing schemes. We ask for the numbers of people who are successful under those schemes. I look at this debacle. We have created a society where ordinary people always seem to be the losers. I welcome this Bill coming in, and I hope that we can truly say that this will never happen again, that people driving on our roads, insured with companies that are legally allowed to operate in this jurisdiction, will never be a risk to themselves or anybody else because of the insurance that they carry.

I know one constituent with a very modest income who was involved in an accident. The reality was that having to carry this for all this period has been a huge financial burden. What did they do wrong? Nothing. They drove on the public road in a perfectly insured vehicle, they were hit by someone in a vehicle that was supposedly insured, and they were let down by the State. I have been told about all the legal complications in the High Court, the Supreme Court and whatever. My attitude is that all those things should be fought out, but in the meantime we should make sure that the ordinary small punter is sorted and work out who pays what in the end between all the big people. I have been told that is not possible. I do not believe it. When things have to be done, they can be done. I welcome what has been done, but I wonder why it took so long.

I was listening to Deputy Scanlon when he spoke about the wider issue of the inaction of the Government on insurance, particularly concerning loading. He spoke about older cars, which is a very valid issue. I believe that under the law, no insurance company should be allowed to load anybody for anything - penalty points, age of car or any of those issues - unless it can produce objective evidence that the risk is higher.

Many moons ago I was discussing getting a reduction in insurance premiums for those living on the islands. We had a special regime of lower taxation on the islands because of the small amount of roads. That provision still exists to this day on the islands. We also had a regime whereby there was no need to carry out a national car test, NCT, on cars on the islands, because taking a car off an offshore island and onto the mainland was a very expensive operation.

Inis Mór, the biggest island, might have six miles of road but they are narrow roads and people cannot get great speed on them. I was negotiating discounts for them on the same basis. I asked whether the fact they do not have to do an NCT would make a difference. In fairness, at the time the islanders got a 30% discount, but they have lost it since. They said to me that the NCT does not really make that much difference because a mechanical failure rarely causes accidents in the modern world. I know there are exceptions but insurance companies do not work on individual cases, they work on statistical risk issues. If someone can prove to me that statistically a ten or 11 year old car with an NCT is more prone to accidents and that mechanically it is more likely to fail and cause a serious accident, or an accident of any type, I will say that is fair enough and it is a justified loading, but I wonder whether there is any objective criterion. My belief is the law should state insurance companies should not be allowed to load unless they have objective criteria to prove the loading is justified and not something that is done on the back of an envelope.

I fully accept a 30 or 40 year old car is significantly different because modern vehicles are made differently and are designed to crumple in a way that reduces the damage compared to what would have happened in an equivalent car 30 or 40 years ago. I do not believe there has been that much development in the past ten or 15 years but, again, let us base it on fact. Let us base it on the model. One would have to look at all the different models of car and decide which are the safe models in terms of safety features and their ability to crumple in a serious accident in the places they should crumple and not to crumple in the places they should not crumple and provide maximum protection in the cab.

As somebody who was involved in a head-on collision I realise the importance of the driver. I was not driving as it happens, and I was lucky that day that I probably had one of the best trained drivers in the State driving me. It is certainly a credit to him that we came out with very minor injuries. Furthermore, it made a difference that we were driving in a good well-built car that was very well designed. It was a Volvo. It did what it said on the tin in terms of the way it acted. If that car were still on the road it would be well over ten years old, but its design features would not have changed. Again, I believe we have to tackle the insurance loading issue and the insurance cost issue.

This country has become particularly cruel for young people. Houses are out of their price range and their wages are reduced if they join the public service. There is also the cost of car insurance, which virtually everybody needs to get to work and for leisure purposes in the modern world. All the Government is thinking and talking about, and what the universities persistently want them to do, is pay for their education by taking out loans they will pay back when they get to work and get a job. This insurance issue needs to be tackled scientifically and the insurance companies acting as prima donnas, without any explanation to anybody and without any evidence, has to be eliminated.

I welcome the Bill. Is fearr deireanach ná go brách, ach tá sé seo thar a bheith deireanach. Is maith an rud é go bhfuil sé ag teacht faoinár mbráid. An bhfuil an tAire Stáit in ann liom an mbeidh an reachtaíocht seo achtaithe roimh sos an tsamhraidh, nó nach mbeidh? Will the Bill be enacted before the summer recess and will it be law by then, or are we just having a preliminary debate about something for which people will again have to wait for the final conclusion of the Bill, having waited far too long already?

Obviously, this is a Second Stage debate, so the normal processes will have to be gone through.

Yes, but if it was very important and urgent legislation all of the Stages could be done before we go on holidays.

I do not think it is very contentious either.

Yes, we might.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions on the Bill and the general conversation about insurance. I have to say the level of ignorance of some Deputies, specifically Deputies Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins and Danny Healy-Rae, about insurance and what has happened, what is happening and what is to happen is astounding and I find it disappointing. I asked Deputy Mattie McGrath to stay so he might listen to what I have to say, but he did not do so and neither did his colleagues. That is disappointing. This is on top of what happened three weeks ago, when I had an information session on insurance in the AV Room and over the two hours four people showed up. If we look around the Chamber there is myself and Deputy Ó Cuív and nobody else. Nobody is really interested in the answers and solutions on insurance at this moment in time. They want to come in and throw boots around the place and say we are doing nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is a very important issue and it is the appropriate place for me to put on the record of the House what has happened, what is happening and what is yet to happen. The Bill is to amend what happened with regard to Setanta Insurance. The failure of Setanta Insurance in 2014, and the uncertainty that followed over the compensation arrangements with third-party claimants, highlighted weaknesses with the current insurance compensation framework, in particular the fact that a third-party motor insurance claimant under the insurance compensation fund is only entitled to 65% of a claim, or €825,000, whichever is the lesser, while the equivalent third-party claimant under the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland for uninsured, unidentified vehicles is generally entitled to full compensation. This is undoubtedly inequitable. Even in overturning the decision that may have been liable for the Setanta Insurance payments, this was recognised by the Supreme Court. The purpose of the Bill, therefore, is to address this unfairness by increasing the level of insurance compensation fund coverage for all future third-party motor claims from 65% to 100% for personal injuries, and to €1.22 million per claim to ensure Setanta Insurance and Enterprise Insurance third-party claimants are compensated in full. The other key element of the Bill is to require that the increased coverage be funded by a contribution to the insurance compensation fund by the motor insurance industry to cover this extra 35% as well as providing for enhanced governance and administrative arrangements.

It is important that we prioritise the passing of this legislation on our return in September, in particular to enable those who have settled their claims and have already received compensation from the insurance compensation fund to receive the balance of 35% owing to them. To Deputy Ó Cuív and anybody else who is listening, I am quite happy to pass this before the recess. If Members of other groups and the Business Committee want to conclude this I will do so with them, but I cannot do it on my own.

It should be remembered that only claims that have been settled can be included in any future applications to the High Court for payment from the insurance compensation fund, ICF. The settlement of claims is very much a matter between claimant and liquidator or for the courts, and it is something over which the Government has no control. In many cases I understand the process of settling claims is ongoing and subject in some cases to complex negotiation between all relevant parties. It is hoped, therefore, that by the State taking steps to ensure that third-party claimants are compensated in full, this will lead to an acceleration of the settlement of all outstanding claims.

I will speak to insurance in general and some of the areas touched on by the debate. Nobody used the most important word applying to insurance in Ireland today, which is "awards". We had some conversation about claims but nobody mentioned awards. The Department of Finance has done work on awards and we are referencing them to our closest neighbours, the UK. The indications are that an award in Ireland, when compared with an equivalent award in the UK, is between three and six times as much. One does not need to know much about insurance to understand that if there is a high awards system, there will be a high premium system. It is as black and white as that.

The cost of insurance working group report was published in January 2017. Flowing from that was the Personal Injuries Commission report from Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns and the report from the working group on the cost of employer and public liability. By the end of this year, we will have 26 from 29 recommended actions concluded from those reports. There will be approximately six actions not concluded that relate to the motor insurance report.

Mr. Justice Kearns in his report highlighted many important areas, including the progression of the updated book of quantum. The book of quantum is not what anybody might think an award should be for an injury but rather it considers the previous three years, averaging those awards. The reduction of the book of quantum is a matter for the courts, and if the awards are reduced, the book of quantum can be reduced. There was criticism to the effect that this Chamber does not set the awards but it does not have the authority to do that. Awards are civil matters between an individual and, most likely, an insurance company. If somebody is not insured, the process involves another individual or party. These are civil matters in the civil courts of this jurisdictions. These are the limitations. We made requests of the Attorney General and it in turn asked the Law Reform Commission to make an examination. We hope the Law Reform Commission will take this on and produce a large body of work.

I will turn to the comments of Deputies. A Deputy raised the matter of levies and we expect the 2% levy to be in place for four or perhaps five years. That will bring the total to €150 million. Subsequent to this, the opportunity exists to reduce the levy to 1% and take the amount up by €50 million to €200 million. At that stage we will have the opportunity to bring the amount to nil. We hope to do that in four to five years. A Deputy mentioned the PMPA levy but this was discontinued in 1991. A levy was subsequently reintroduced because of the Quinn Insurance liquidation and it has been in place since. The 2% levy is a matter for insurance companies, which can absorb it into costs or pass it on. It is not for us to tell them what to do, although I know what I would like them to do. It is a commercial decision for each insurance company.

I was asked if there is a long-term plan, and there is such a plan. This Bill is before the House and legislation relating to a national claims information database is to be published next week, to be taken by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. We will have amending legislation for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, which will strengthen the powers of PIAB with respect to non-attendance at medicals and matters of that nature. We hope that will go to the Government next week for approval to be published. The Minister for Justice and Equality will bring forward the Judicial Council Bill 2017, with the Department considering the insertion of a provision for the training on assessment of personal injury damages. The Bill has been published but we are awaiting Committee Stage amendments and a date for that debate.

The Department of Justice and Equality is also considering the amendment of sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. The initial draft heads have been prepared to amend these very important sections and how they would interact with new data protection rules. If somebody has imagery, they are obliged to delete the footage within one month, but we are reconciling the time somebody has to retain the imagery. This relates to the time in which a party must be informed of a potential incident and be afforded the opportunity to save footage to aid defence in the future. Section 14 of the amended Act would allow a court to draw an inference from failure to produce a verifying affidavit within 21 days. If somebody does not do what is required, such as saving video imagery, inference can be taken against that party in court, which is very important.

A Deputy spoke about the implementation of a new section being required for revised matters relating to the criminal act of insurance fraud. We are satisfied the Act, particularly sections 25 and 26, is strong enough in this regard. The penalties are a €100,000 fine or prison or both. That is strong enough. If somebody wants to take a chance on insurance fraud or exaggeration, the sanction is sufficiently strong to deal with the matter. It has fallen down between a justice suspecting an element of insurance fraud or exaggeration and the correct pathway between the court, the Garda, the Director of Public Prosecutions and insurance companies. There is no correct place for the judge to air an opinion of fraud and call in gardaí to take a statement from the person sitting in court who is taking a chance on a one-way bet of insurance fraud for tens of thousands of euro. I am not saying that will happen but it is something that could happen if we get the pathway correct.

There are some other issues and I appreciate the indulgence of the Chair. There was mention of the Garda fraud unit being funded by the insurance industry. Deputy Doherty is opposed to this and in newspaper reports I note Deputy O'Callaghan, the Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson, has raised concerns about it. I have concerns about this personally. I came into this job 12 months ago and this was a recommendation.

I outlined in the finance committee my concerns about it and how it was a matter to be discussed between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the incoming Garda Commissioner. Some people took complete offence at that.

I do not support the idea that an industry should pay a portion of the wages of gardaí. That is a personal view. I will try to implement the recommendation because it was concluded before I came into the job. I have an obligation to do that. However, at a personal level I have major qualms about any individual private sector funding any section of An Garda Síochána. The same view has been outlined by several other people.

There are other ways of doing exactly that. If there are other ways of doing exactly that, then we want to ensure we explore the opportunities and how we may put in place a correctly-funded Garda insurance fraud unit with a budget of €1 million – that is what Insurance Ireland has said it will do. It has said it will provide €1 million towards the section. I believe there are more appropriate ways of doing that. Having said that, I will try to progress it with the Minister for Justice and Equality, An Garda Síochána and the new Commissioner, when he takes up the position. We will take it from there.

As I have said, I am perfectly happy for the legislation to come through before the end of this term, if that is possible but I am unsure whether it is possible. If it is possible, then I am up for it and I would like everyone else to be as well.

The reality is that we have awards that are, on average, between three and five and a half times more than the sums awarded in the UK. We also have other awards that are even higher - these are outlier awards. Under the new Solvency II rules on capitalisation insurance companies are obliged to fund accordingly. If a person has a broken arm and there is an outlier award, the company has to capitalise on that basis of that amount. This is what is really doing the damage. We have awards that are too high. We have exaggeration and fraud. That is a perfect storm for insurance and that is why the awards in Ireland are some of the highest in the world.

I wish to touch on the insurance companies quickly. The insurance companies tell us that it is all the fault of exaggeration and all the fault of fraud. As a result of these factors and the storms, including Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma, I decided to look into exactly how insurance companies deal with their clients or customers. Their customers buy their products and insure themselves with a given company. That examination is ongoing. I have met all the insurance companies in recent months. I am meeting the loss-adjusters and the brokers to try to learn more about the interaction between the individuals and the companies.

I believe this is a significant consumer protection issue. I have spoken with the Central Bank of Ireland and I have requested the views of the bank on the consumer protection side. The Central Bank is the regulator and it is the job of the bank to ensure that consumer protection is appropriate. I have asked for the views of the Central Bank on the matter. I have no wish to predict the outcome of the report before it is concluded.

There are other relevant areas and I have touched upon most of them. Deputy Scanlon said nothing was done for the hauliers. Three years ago there was a significant reduction by the Government at budget time on the haulier tax or tax on vehicles. That was very much welcomed so I do not accept the contention.

As I have said previously, I will look into company cars.

Deputy Ó Cuív mentioned that individuals who took out Setanta insurance were let down by the State. They were not let down by the State. The State is intervening to ensure that the amount of redress, which was to be 65%, would be 100%. We did not have to do that but we took the view it was appropriate and the correct thing to do. People bought insurance and adhered to the law of the land on insurance. The decision of the courts held that some people potentially would only be paid 65%. We took the view that decision was wrong and not appropriate. This legislation is dealing with the issue.

I wish to put on record the reason there was a delay. Some Deputies may know already. Until 27 May, when the Supreme Court overturned the decision on the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, the Minister for Finance was not in a position to intervene as the insurance industry, through MIBI, was responsible for compensation for third-party claimants in full. That was subsequently over-ruled by the Supreme Court. Once that was done, it was necessary to take legal advice and carry out an actuarial assessment on the matter. I understand that was not concluded until December of 2017. The following January it was concluded. In only a short number of weeks we made a determination that the right thing to do for those people who adhered to the law of the land was to ensure that they were fully compensated 100% and not only to the extent of 65%. That is what we are dealing with under this Bill. We are putting that into effect.

I appreciate your indulgence, a Cheann Comhairle. I imagine I have left out many aspects of this. If people want this to be done before the end of the session, the Business Committee can help me out. I imagine the finance spokespersons would facilitate that, as would I.

Question put and agreed to.