Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Questions (62)

Robert Troy


62. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to outline the status of the progress in implementing the recommendations of the cost of insurance working group that fall within his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45946/18]

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Oral answers (15 contributions) (Question to Transport)

Following a Fianna Fáil motion in 2016, the Government established a cost of insurance working group to examine the high cost of insurance. Responsibility for implementing several of the working group's recommendations was ascribed to the Minister and his Department. Will the Minister provide an update on the progress made in implementing those recommendations?

The cost of insurance working group is chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy. My Department has responsibility for 12 of the 71 actions arising from the cost of insurance working group report published in January 2017. Quarterly update reports are issued by the Department of Finance and are available on its website.

The current status of my Department's actions are that six are complete and six are due for completion in quarter 4 of 2018. The six actions completed to date relate to the holding of formal discussions between the advisory committee on small public service vehicles and Insurance Ireland, which is broken into two actions, with those discussions having commenced; establishing a fully functioning database to identify uninsured drivers, with insurance companies compelled to provide the driving licence number for such purposes; the submission of a detailed project plan for the development of a master licence record; and a requirement on the insurance industry to promote compliance with road safety legislation. My Department remains committed to the delivery of the remaining actions arising out of the recommendations of the working group.

As regards the cost of motor insurance, the main contributing factor in my area of responsibility is road safety and the improvement of road safety. In that respect, the implementation of the actions set out in the Government’s road safety strategy for the period 2013 to 2020 should, over time and taking account of the recent mid-term review of the strategy, lead to a reduction in road traffic collisions, fatalities and injuries, and material damage claims. This should make an important contribution to reducing the cost of motor insurance as the insurance industry has acknowledged it has done over the past decade and a half.

There is a rather larger duty upon us to reduce insurance premiums by way of having a policy that increases road safety. I believe the Deputy will agree that we are doing that very effectively, and with his support in very many cases. We have reduced the number of collisions and, it is hoped, the number of road deaths, and introduced legislation that has contributed enormously to road safety.

The cost of insurance is a significant for motorists, taxi drivers and the haulage industry. The cost of car insurance has seen increases of 70% between 2013 and 2016. Last year, Verona Murphy of the Irish Road Haulage Association cited that some hauliers were seeing an increase of 300%. Nevin's Taxis in the midlands, which operates six cars, has seen its insurance costs increase by €60,000 in one year. The Minister will know Tom Allen, the music promoter. His insurance costs increased from €562 in 2013 to €2,162 in 2018, with no claims.

The Minister's Department was the lead Department in respect of seven recommendations by the cost of insurance working group, which published its report in January 2017. Of those seven recommendations, not one has been completed. As a consequence of that, there are other recommendations that are unable to be completed and, as a result, we are continuing to see hard-pressed motorists being gouged for the cost of insurance. The Minister and his Government colleagues are failing to address that.

I believe I addressed most of that in the answer to the Deputy's question when I referred to 12 out of the 71 recommendations. The cost of insurance working group took into account all the other issues the Deputy mentioned. We have succeeded in completing six of the recommendations and we will complete the other six in time.

The important job we do, and that we have done reasonably well, is to keep the cost of insurance premiums down as far as possible by making the roads safer. That is our primary job. I will list some of those measures. I am sure the Deputy knows that today I introduced to the Cabinet, and Deputy Munster will be interested in this as well, a measure that is very dear to the Deputy's heart, namely, a measure on rickshaws, on which I accepted an amendment from Deputy Munster in this House in 2016. That will be implemented now and it will make the roads in Dublin and Cork safer from the menace rickshaws have become. It is to be hoped that will also mean that non-motorised rickshaws will have to take out insurance to which the Deputy referred.

The Minister will have another opportunity.

The Minister is living in cloud cuckoo land. He is taking credit for implementing an amendment in respect of rickshaws that was voted on in this House two years ago. How is the consolidation of the Road Traffic Acts coming along? Has it even commenced? According to the response to a freedom of information request, it has not.

Can we stick to the question I am asking on the recommendations of the insurance reform group? The Minister's Department was the lead Department in respect of seven of the group's recommendations and of those, none is completed. Recommendation 10 is that regular engagement should commence between the advisory committee on small public service vehicles and Insurance Ireland. The update as of the end of the previous quarter is that regular meetings between the advisory committee and Insurance Ireland have not occurred. Recommendation 28 is to establish a database to identify uninsured drivers - motor third-party liability insurance. The update is that legislative changes are needed to require drivers to provide insurance with their driving licence number. That has not happened. Recommendation 30 is to develop a master licence database to make it easier to access information on car and driver. The update is that this is two years behind schedule and it will be delivered by 2020 at the earliest. These are the updates from the Minister's Department. Meanwhile, people are being ripped off by the cost of insurance and the Minister talks about regulating rickshaws two years after the Dáil voted on that amendment. He should get real.

Before Deputy Troy bursts another blood vessel in his phony outrage, I will try to do as he asked. He is quite right. Some of these recommendations have not been implemented. Six out of 12 have been implemented. On one the Deputy mentioned, ongoing meetings of the database project board are being held to oversee the project's implementation, and others are progressing. They have not all been done and they will not all be done in a timetable that is dictated by the Deputy. He complains about whatever happens on these issues. I do not mind that. We are doing a very effective job in keeping the roads safe.

The Minister should ask people who are paying a 300% increase in the cost of their insurance if he is doing a good job.

The Minister, without interruption.

There is a problem with insurance companies. Insurance companies have had problems with their profits for a long time. The reality probably is that they are charging far too much because they are trying to catch up with profits they lost a long time ago. That is unforgivable.

Do something about it.

Allow me to say something about the courts. The payouts for whiplash in this country, with which the Government has nothing to do, are multiples of what they are overseas. It is more than 12 times the typical amount it costs the claimant in terms of medical expenses. To put that in perspective, according to a report today in the Daily Mail, compensation awards for whiplash in Ireland are five times higher than in the United Kingdom. Insurance companies ultimately pass on that cost to all their consumers. The Deputy should not blame the Government for all of this. The insurance companies are charging too much and the courts-----

It is the Minister's job to regulate it.

-----are giving outrageous awards.

For God's sake.