Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill 2018: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the opportunity to address the Seanad today on the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill 2018, which was published on 10 July 2018. This Bill seeks to provide the legislative basis for the Central Bank of Ireland to establish and maintain the national claims information database which was recommended by the cost of insurance working group in January 2017. Its essential purpose is to improve data availability in the motor insurance area. It is also proposing to amend sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004.

As Senators are aware, the cost of insurance working group was established by the Minister for Finance in 2016 to examine the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance and to identify what measures can be introduced to help reduce this cost, taking account of the requirement that we maintain a financially stable insurance sector. The result of that examination was the publication of the report on the cost of motor insurance in January 2017, with 33 recommendations for implementation. Subsequently, the report on the cost of employer and public liability insurance, with its 15 additional recommendations, was published in January 2018. Both reports contain recommendations targeted at improving the insurance sector generally. It is important to say that a key conclusion of the working group was that there was no single policy or legislative silver bullet to stem or reverse immediately significant premium price rises. This was also recognised by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure, Reform and Taoiseach, which reported on the issue in late 2016.

One of the key themes which emerged from the discussions of the working group was that an improvement in transparency, through the additional collection and publication of data, was essential. The cost of insurance working group, therefore, recommended the establishment of a national claims information database on a legislative basis to facilitate a more in-depth analysis of annual trends in motor insurance claims. This was seen as key to developing an understanding of how claims costs are impacting premiums, in particular understanding the relationship between the price paid by a customer for motor insurance and the cost to insurance undertakings.

In making its recommendation the cost of insurance working group felt there was a need to take a practical approach to the establishment of a database. In other words, in broad terms it should be trying to achieve the following: provide key aggregate data around how the market is operating at a particular time, be relatively simple to construct at the outset, be cost-effective, be capable of being put in place relatively quickly, and have the capacity to expand and deepen its scope and range over time.

In considering this matter the working group took into account the type of data collected in other jurisdictions to see if there was a precedent on which it could build its database. Consideration of the cost dimension was also important as ultimately the database will be paid for by the insurance industry which will pass the costs onto policyholders. Relative simplicity was deemed an important quality because insurers do not always collect data in a consistent way. Therefore, the database needs to be sufficiently broad at the outset to cater for a slight variation of approaches. Over time this can be improved as insurers standardise the way they provide data. In summary, the working group took the view that a database built upon the characteristics above was the best way forward.

A subgroup of the cost of insurance working group was established to identify relevant data that could be defined in a consistent manner and devise a practical method for the collection of that data, using these objectives. It was chaired by officials from my Department, including representatives from the Central Bank, the State Claims Agency, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, the Central Statistics Office and the Society of Actuaries in Ireland. This work culminated in the publication of the Bill before Seanad Éireann today.

In parallel, work has been undertaken by the Central Bank in close co-operation with the data subgroup on the finalisation, subject to the passage of the legislation, of a specification document which sets out the specific data that will be required from insurers for the purpose of the database. The progression of the specification in parallel with the drafting of the Bill was seen as necessary to ensure that the database can be operational as quickly as possible following enactment. It also provided a means of signalling to industry certain system changes it may need to undertake to be ready for engagement with the database. I understand my officials circulated briefing material on what would be collected within the data specification to Senators. I hope this was beneficial in highlighting the level of detail that will be collected.

I propose to give Senators a brief overview of the major sections of the Bill. It should be noted that I will provide a more detailed breakdown on each section on Committee Stage.

Section 4 which covers interpretation is an important provision because, as well as defining a range of relevant expressions, it also sets out the different settlement channels through which a claim may be finalised. A claim may be resolved directly with an insurer, through the PIAB, or by a court decision. As aggregate industry data are not currently available, for example, on direct settlements, this breakdown was identified as important to allow policymakers to see trends or distinctions in the costs related to these channels and to enable them develop more targeted response measures, where necessary.

Section 6 allows the scope of the database to be extended to other lines of non-life insurance in the future on foot of an assessment by the Central Bank of the appropriateness of such extension after consultation with the Minister for Finance. While it is intended in the first instance that the database will focus on the motor insurance sector, it was clear from our consultations that many saw a case to extend the scope of the database in the future to encompass other lines of non-life insurance, such as employer liability insurance and public liability insurance.

Section 8 is the pivotal section of the Bill as it confers the Central Bank of Ireland with the function of establishing and administering the database. It requires the Central Bank to collect and analyse data from insurance undertakings on the income and costs associated with carrying on the relevant class of insurance. It is then required to publish information about those data at least annually. The type of information that can be collected includes data on different types of income, exposure, business expenses, the number and nature of claims, the costs and provisions associated with those claims, as well as the amounts paid in respect of claims resolved in different settlement channels and the costs associated with those claims.

Section 8 also sets out the purposes which the Central Bank’s annual report should meet and includes the following: increasing the level of information around the relationship between the cost of providing insurance and the cost of a premium for the consumer, identifying current and emerging trends within the sector, identifying the factors that cause price movements in the relevant line of insurance, presenting a statistical analysis of income and expenditure associated with providing the relevant type of insurance, and presenting a statistical analysis of information relating to claims and of each particular settlement channel used in respect of such claims.

Section 11 sets out the funding regime for the establishment and administration of the database. This provision is designed in such a way as to ensure that the Central Bank is fully reimbursed for the performance of this additional function. One of the reasons for this is to ensure that the financing of the project does not run contrary to the prohibitions on monetary financing set down by the European Central Bank statutes.

I will touch briefly on the amendments to sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 which are covered by section 13 of the Bill.

On Committee Stage in the Dáil this section was introduced into the Bill in order to implement two key recommendations of the cost of insurance working group's report on the cost of employer and public liability insurance.

With regard to section 8, three changes are being made: the period of notice is being reduced from two months to one month; the wording "or as soon as practicable afterwards" is being deleted as this, it is argued, allows too much latitude for late notification - it is felt that there is already sufficient safeguard in the legislation for a plaintiff insofar as if he or she has reasonable cause for the delay then the court will take account of this; and a court "shall" be required to draw inferences from a failure to notify rather than "may" draw inferences - it should be noted that these inferences are unlikely to be negative if the plaintiff has reasonable cause for a late notification.

A new subsection (4A) is being inserted into section 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. Section 14 deals with the matter of a verifying affidavit in a personal injuries action. At the time this Bill was being legislated for, it was described as a key element of the 2004 Act and was designed to combat false and exaggerated personal injury claims. The working group took the view that the requirement to lodge an affidavit within 21 days of the service of the pleadings was not unreasonable. However, it appears that this regularly does not happen. Therefore, this new subsection would provide for a court hearing a personal injuries action, where there is a failure to lodge an affidavit in court within 21 days to draw inferences and where it thought it appropriate in the circumstances of the case to deduct costs from the party responsible for the failure. This will have no impact on those plaintiffs and defendants already complying with this legislative rule.

I reiterate the importance of the swift passage of this Bill to ensure that the national claims information database can be established and the Central Bank of Ireland can begin collecting and analysing the data necessary to increase transparency in the insurance sector as soon as possible. Ultimately, the main benefit of the database is the report that the Central Bank will produce, which I believe will become a rich source of information that will benefit policymakers, insurers, including insurers considering accessing the Irish market, and consumers. In general terms, it should make the Irish insurance market more attractive over time.

Another aspect I want to highlight is that on the issue of the insurance fraud section within An Garda Síochána, I will meet the Commissioner, Mr. Drew Harris, tomorrow morning.

The four of us here were all members of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform when it held an in-depth investigation and discussion about motor insurance in late 2016. The Minister of State mentioned it in his report, with the work being done by the cost of insurance working group.

I welcome the opportunity to speak about this long-awaited Bill which we will be supporting as a party. The Bill, as the Minister of State outlined, enables the Central Bank to gather and publish regularly data on insurance claims. At present, 70% of those claims are settled outside either the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, or the courts, with 20% in the PIAB and 10% in the courts. There is no objective way of measuring or understanding what is happening in the 70% of the sector to which I refer. This weakness is a deterrent, particularly for new entrants or potential entrants into the market who are looking at the market and have little visibility on what is happening here.

While the Bill is welcomed, it must be acknowledged it has taken far too long to get here. It is another example of making an announcement and yet failing to deliver. Neither I nor my party will delay the Bill, either today or at any other Stage. This legislation was meant to be enacted at the end of 2017 and here we are at the end of 2018, a full year after its initial deadline.

As customers continue to come to terms with excessive insurance premia, the Government recently released its seventh update on the cost of motor insurance and employer and public liability insurance. Motor insurance customers, businesses, charities, sports clubs and many others continue to face insurance premia that are far in excess of what is justified or fair. The Minister of State and I have had many discussions at committee, both when he was a member and, subsequently, as Minister of State, about fraud, exaggerated claims, etc.

According to the CSO, the premia have reduced by 11% in 2017. Since June 2013, premia have increased by 32%. Many Senators of all parties have examples of policyholders who have experienced increases far in excess of 32%. The CSO is limited in what it can account for. When someone wishes to make an alteration to an insurance policy mid-year, for example, to change address, the insurance companies are charging well in excess of what would be seen to be fair.

For businesses, there is no index that records the cost of insurance. This has led some to believe insurance premia have stopped growing in motor insurance at the expense of business insurance, which is not monitored.

Fianna Fáil has long been calling for reform of the insurance market. In June 2016, a motion, tabled by Fianna Fáil in the Lower House and passed, called on the Government to reform the insurance market to make it more transparent and to ultimately reduce premia. In response, the Government created the working group, which published its initial recommendation in January 2017. We welcome those proposals but delivery, as the Minister of State will acknowledge, is key. Like many other reports, its implementation has simply not been good enough or quick enough. While the industry needs to be heard, so too do the countless customers who feel ripped off as their insurance premia go through the roof. We all have discussed it. We are getting older, our cars are getting older, we are driving less, yet our premia are going up significantly with no claims.

It is not too much to ask for a consumer to be informed as to the reason or reasons the premium has increased. This action point has more or less been abandoned by the Government. Instead, insurance companies now only have to provide generic reasons for increases offering customers little or no clarity whatsoever. The recommendations for policyholders to be informed of claims made against them before a settlement has been reached has stalled and it looks like the Government is rolling over on this point also.

A mechanism to set up the anti-fraud unit within An Garda Síochána was to be approved by the third quarter of 2017. This has yet to be achieved. I acknowledge the Minister of State's comment at the end of his contribution which is not in the speech in terms of meeting Mr. Drew Harris. I welcome that because not that long ago in committee the Minister of State was more or less saying that he did not want to divert gardaí away from real crime onto this issue. Of course, there is gangland crime and other crime that needs to be dealt with, but fraud, at any level, either completely staged claims or, indeed, fraudulent increasing or massively exaggerating claims, is bad, and we are all paying for it. It is important to bear in mind that 8% of motor insurance policyholders are claiming at the expense of the other 92%. While these claims are not all fraudulent - nobody is saying they are - many policyholders are not making claims and are still experiencing very significant increases.

On top of all of this, we have the ongoing investigation by the European Commission and the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, CPCC, on alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Individuals, small businesses, charities and sports clubs are all facing unsustainably high insurance premia. It is a direct threat to our competitiveness and we must tackle the issue. I acknowledge that the Bill helps in that regard. The Minister of State acknowledged - I concur - that there is no silver bullet but we need to chip away at it in every way we can. We need to reduce the number of road deaths. We need to reduce the number of crashes. We need greater enforcement. Earlier today we were talking about speeding and the ways we deal with speeding. We need to look at proportionality but, equally, we need to look at those who are repeat offenders and, perhaps, look at offenders' salaries in terms of the penalty they pay because an €80 fine to somebody on a lot of money is not the same as to somebody on very little money. We certainly need to be looking at ways of ensuring better driver behaviour and, in terms of other claims, better general behaviour.

Equally, we need to acknowledge that the high premia are a result of high payouts. The Minister of State has said so previously and I agree. We need to get the number of claims down. We need to get the amount of claims down and the value of those claims down. We can do that in many ways, including by enforcing the road traffic laws in many ways and providing better roads in order that there are not as many crashes. Insurance companies must pursue. I am glad to see some judges are now throwing out claims where they tell the plaintiff that just because he or she managed to slip somewhere does not mean he or she is entitled to €60,000, €80,000 or €100,000 when a significant share of the blame was his or her own.

The key recommendations of the cost of insurance working group were around protecting the consumer, improving data availability, improving the personal insurance claims environment, reducing the cost of the claims process, reducing insurance fraud and, as I have outlined, promoting road safety.

Those recommendations include action to enhance levels of transparency, which is the purpose of this Bill, and to improve the personal injuries litigation framework through a number of measures such as ensuring potential defendants are notified in sufficient time, tackling fraudulent or exaggerated claims and ensuring suitable training.

I acknowledge what the Minister of State said about the change in the other legislation in terms of asking people to make a claim or announce their claim earlier. There were issues in the pubs and restaurant industry. People were coming in two years after an alleged claim which may not have been a claim in the first place and saying they slipped in that premises two years ago. All the video footage may be gone and many of the staff will have changed. It is an important part of the Bill and I welcome its inclusion.

I do not want to delay the Bill. I am very supportive of it and the work the Minister of State is doing. However, the more we do and the faster we can deliver on it, the better. That will be for the benefit of every consumer, club, business, NGO and so on. Everybody is paying insurance, and everybody feels insurance is dead money to a certain extent in that it goes out but one never sees a return on it, and one is not supposed to see a return. If we can manage to keep the number of claims down, we can reduce the cost of premiums. I commend the work the Minister of State is doing. We will help him to do that as much as we can.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, to the House again. He is always extremely welcome here. He is doing very valuable work. I commend him on his perseverance in the area of insurance. It is obvious he has encyclopaedic knowledge both from being in business as a farmer for many years and also the fact that he was involved in the banking inquiry with my good self. He was on the finance committee when we had the initial insurance report and subsequently he has taken up the role as Minister of State in charge of that area.

I want to make some observations. First, the initial focus should be on motor insurance. There is a facility in the Bill to go to other areas in non-life insurance. I would not want to have too many elements involved initially. It would take the focus away from motor insurance.

Second, in terms of the existing databases in motor insurance companies, is there any way of feeding those into the national database being compiled by the Central Bank or do they preserve those as their own property?

Third, when does the Minister of State anticipate that the national database will be put in place? Is he satisfied there is sufficient capacity within the Central Bank, both in terms of personnel and resources, to compile that as quickly as possible? When the database is up and running it will provide transparency in terms of the premiums being charged, the claims being made and a myriad of factors, which should bring about a lowering of premiums. Importantly, when it is being compiled it should encourage competitive premiums. The insurance industry is aware that a national database will be in place in a relatively short period of time that may point out that exorbitant rates had been charged on motor insurance premiums prior to that date.

This is a very welcome measure. It is long overdue, which we are aware of from reports. There should be no delay in passing the legislation. When does the Minister of State anticipate it will be in place? Does he believe the Central Bank has the necessary resources and capacity to put it in place?

What is the status of the existing databases in the motor insurance industry? I refer to feeding into the national database and interaction with the national database when it is up and running. Who will have ownership of the database and who will have access to it?

I welcome this Bill. In the previous finance committee we spoke about the assessment of where we had got with the motor insurance sector. The CSO has stated premiums are down by 23%. I will be writing to the Minister of State about the information I have collated from a number of surveys I have done which do not reflect that. I will write to him under separate cover and get the Minister of State's comments on it because it is worrying.

I welcome this Bill; we have talked about it for long enough. Transparency was the key identified by the finance committee when we examined this issue in detail over the past two years. However, the legislative approach taken is weak and hands too much scope to the Central Bank to interpret the will of the Oireachtas.

We have had eight progress reports to date on changes made to the insurance sector. When others and I quizzed the Minister about the lack of progress on many elements of the cost of insurance working group’s plan, we were told that we needed to examine the database as it was the main element and not get distracted by other parts that are way behind schedule or have been dropped. It is here now and it could be a lot better.

I have doubts about whether the database the Minister envisages will ever see the light of day given that this legislation is basically an enabling piece of law to allow the Central Bank go ahead and do what it wants. That is not good enough. When the idea of the database was first mooted most people would probably have imagined it to be a database they, as consumers, could consult to check out details of insurers. Instead, it is only an industry database held by the Central Bank. It is a very limited form of transparency.

On Second Stage in the Dáil my party raised the issue of whether the Central Bank is the right body to hold and manage this database. Other suggestions were made such as the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or the CSO. The Minister is proceeding with the Central Bank as the body responsible but he is failing to draw up sufficiently tight instructions for the Central Bank to operate it.

Technically, there is nothing in this Bill to guarantee that any motor insurer would be included. I accept that is the intent but much leeway is given to the Central Bank and there is no legal onus to include motor insurers. Public liability insurers are kicked down the road, so to speak, and again there is no legal obligation to have them included.

I have concerns also that the reporting rules put into the Bill will allow insurers to muddy the waters by declaring all sorts of costs as expenses, meaning that they will look as if they are less profitable than they are. As legislators, we should not simply tell the Central Bank to go and make regulations. We are the ones accountable and we should influence primary law. In this case, we should be using that influence to tighten up the transparency standards.

The other parts of the Bill that concern me are the changes to the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. These are very serious changes. We cannot simply go along with every change suggested because it is sold as tackling fraud. We are running the danger of going through a period of reform in the insurance industry and the only aspect actually reformed is that it becomes far more difficult to make a legitimate claim. The idea of legislation allowing the courts to draw an inference is pushing the boundaries of constitutionality and we need to tread very carefully.

I support the Bill but we will consider a number of Committee Stage amendments that may enhance it. I thank the Minister of State for taking on board one of our party’s amendments on Report Stage in the Dáil. We can work together but there are serious issues within the Bill that need to be addressed. It is our intention to enhance the Bill in every way we can but also to have it passed by the House as speedily as possible.

We share the concerns of the Minister of State on the high cost of motor insurance and the greater transparency that is needed all around to allow more competition into the market and to unblock some of the barriers that are preventing people from obtaining motor insurance and insurance in general at a reasonable cost.

I thank the Senators for their thoughts on this matter. There is a full focus on motor insurance. It is the only insurance which people are legally obliged to have. A person who brings a car on to the road is obliged to have the vehicle taxed and legally obliged to have it insured. There is no other legal obligation to have insurance. That is why the full focus is on motor insurance.

Motor insurance also accounts for the vast majority - between 60% and 70% or perhaps a little more - of insurance claims. We are focusing on motor insurance first and employment liability and public liability insurance will follow. That is the appropriate approach.

The database of the companies belongs to the insurance companies. The Central Bank have been working on this since the legislation was published. Work has been taking place in parallel with the legislation, prior to the Bill's publication and as it has moved through the Houses. The big body of work is the review going back for ten years. I expect an analysis of the ten-year period up to and including 2018 to be published in quarter 3 of 2019. We will have a decade of information on motor insurance to analyse. A large body of work is being done and it will allow us to get started.

We will see the settlement channels. The Senator asked for whom this information is being gathered. It is to provide an analysis of what is happening for policymakers and the insurance industry. Senator Horkan has made the point that we do not know what the settlement channels are. We have sight of less than 30% of the cases that go through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, and we have no information on the other 70% of PIAB cases. I have met all the insurance companies and they all have different business models, settlement channels and structures. Some insurance companies will settle early without a medical report. I call this "go away money". Commercially, that is their business model and it works for them because they are profitable. However, I do not agree with that model.

At the other end of the spectrum, another company will fight cases involving people who have been impacted on and have legitimate claims every step of the way and for every penny. That is the other side of the business model and I do agree with that either because it involves fighting people who have been legitimately impacted on and cases that require damages to be paid. Then there is everybody else in between. We do not know what the correct model is. While I can understand the commercial reality of settling early and of fighting every claim every step of the way, I do not agree with either model. There should be a space in the middle because that would be a more appropriate model.

If there are too many companies settling without a medical report, that could become a policy issue and result in the Oireachtas changing the law to prevent that practice by providing that companies cannot settle without a medical report. That is just an example. I do not know what I can do in the case of companies which fight legitimate claims every step of the way, which is not correct practice either. There is then everything else in between. The analysis will look back ten years from the end of this year. There is considerable information and data flow to be analysed and the analysis will throw up many issues that we are not aware of. We will see what information emerges.

As to who will have access to the database, there will at least be an annual report, which should be sufficient. As such, we will have ten years of data and, subsequently, we will have an annual report when the information is made available. This will allow us to identify if there have been changes.

I was probably a little harsh on Senator Conway-Walsh at the committee meeting to which she referred.

I apologise if I was but the Senator is well able for it.

On the Central Statistics Office data for insurance costs, we accepted these data when they tracked the increase from the low point to the peak, which was almost 60%. We should accept the CSO data as prices go down given that we accepted them when prices went up. This is not my information or the Department's information. It is information compiled by the Central Statistics Office. There has definitely been a reduction in premiums but it has not applied to everybody. When I meet the insurance companies, some do not want young drivers and they price accordingly, while others do not want older drivers and they also price accordingly. We also have everything in between. Every company has a different calculation structure and business model and is stronger or weaker in different areas. It is not for me or anybody in the Department of Finance to tell them what their commercial business model should be. My job is to probe the companies to get my head around exactly how they operate. Some are very strong in the areas of younger drivers and have a large segment of that market. They price more competitively than companies which do not want to insure younger drivers.

Will the Minister of State examine the data I have collected? They could be used in his meetings with the insurance companies.

I will have a look at it.

On the Central Bank of Ireland's leeway that the Senator also highlighted, the Central Bank, as the regulator, is the appropriate body to do this. It has information on the insurance companies that cannot and will not be available to other bodies, including the CSO and the PIAB. This is a technical structure to analyse information and present a report. We are starting with motor insurance and will move to other parts of the insurance industry afterwards.

On section 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act, the change in data retention and the GDPR regulations has resulted in an anomaly in law. Somebody who has imagery or video footage is obliged by law to delete that imagery within one month. The unfairness of this requirement is clear to me and obliges us to do something about it. We are reconciling the period within which an insured person must inform someone else that he or she may take a case with the time within which imagery and video footage must be deleted. This is to ensure the person against whom a claim is being made can protect that imagery or video footage and have a proper defence. That is fair. By law, one is obliged to delete such footage after one month. It is absolutely appropriate that the two time schedules are merged into the same period.

It is also appropriate that if one does not have a reasonable ground for failing to inform the person against whom a claim may have been taken, the judge can draw inferences from that. On too many occasions, people first find out about a claim against them when they seek to renew their insurance premium and find there has been a loading. That is not fair or right either.

Section 14 also makes a change on the affidavit. We must give people an opportunity to mount a proper defence.

I also want to end the practice of taking fraudulent insurance claims. This is not a victimless crime. Everyone who pays a premium pays extra for fraud. I want to end the situation where that practice is a one-way bet. Claimants can chance their arm on a claim for €20,000, €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000, which can be thrown out of the civil courts by a judge who suspects an element of fraud. The difficulty arises because the interaction between the criminal courts and the civil courts has not been property constructed. We want to improve that so that the opportunity to place a one-way bet, which is part of the structure of Irish insurance, does not continue. I accept what the Senator says. We did not take these changes lightly. However, we believe there are sufficient protections within the structure to avoid an unfair impact on those with legitimate claims.

I will make two final points. Everything we are doing primarily concerns the lower range of awards, that is, claims below €30,000. All our analysis, including the Personal Injuries Commission, PIC, report, the Department of Finance report and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board report, shows that those claims are well out of kilter with our UK neighbours. That is the best jurisdiction with which to compare ourselves. About five times more is awarded in this jurisdiction than in the UK. If consumers want British premia, claimants must receive British awards. Our awards are not in sync with that. Less work has been done to examine much larger awards, but these seem to be in line with those in other jurisdictions, whereas that is certainly not the case with lower awards. That is one point.

If we want to do this, these changes must be made. As I said, the lower awards are well out of sync with similar awards in the UK, while higher awards are practically in sync. I have forgotten my second point.

It will come to the Minister of State.

I am not sure it will.

The Minister of State is all right.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach is being generous.

As some of us were here until 2.30 a.m., we might not be as-----

The Leas-Chathaoirleach looks a bit tired.

I am glad the Minister of State noticed.

I thought he might have nodded off a moment ago.

Forgive the interruption.

It would be very helpful if we could get this Bill through the House before the end of the session. It contains an important suite of provisions that we need to implement. This is the really important stuff. The Senator highlighted that some of the recommendations are not being followed or have been delayed. While that is correct, this is important legislation. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018 is also important. Overall, however, the Judicial Council Bill 2017 is probably more important than just about anything else. The sooner we get this key legislation through both Houses, the sooner we will impact further on the reduction of premia. I am fully aware that businesses are closing because the cost of insurance is very high. I am also aware that voluntary groups throughout the country, from the Senator's part of County Mayo in the west to County Wexford in the south-east where I come from, are stretched. Everything that we do is intended to bring down premia.

While debate can sometimes be combative, I express my gratitude to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach and to Deputies and Senators for the speed with which the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018 was passed. The Bill before the House went through the Dáil pretty quickly and I hope and anticipate we will get it through this House. As I said, this Bill, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Bill 2018, the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2018, the Judicial Council Bill 2017 and one or two other bits and pieces will have an impact and reduce insurance premia even further.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 18 December 2018.
Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.15 p.m.