As the Deputy is aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group was established in July 2016 and undertook an examination of the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance in order to identify what short, medium and long-term measures could be introduced to help reduce the cost of insurance for consumers and businesses. The initial focus of the Working Group was the issue of rising motor insurance premiums and the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance was published in January 2017.
The Report makes 33 recommendations with 71 associated actions to be carried out in agreed timeframes, which are set out in an Action Plan. The completion of this work remains very important in order to fully achieve the objectives of delivering fairer premiums for consumers and businesses, and a more stable and competitive insurance market. In this regard, I believe that significant progress has been made on the motor side which is reflected in the fact that the most recent Central Statistics Office data indicates that the cost of motor insurance has fallen by 23.8% since July 2016. Consequently the average consumer should be seeing reductions when renewing their motor insurance.
I would like to draw attention to some significant legislative developments. Most recently, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019 (No. 3 of 2019) has been enacted and has been commenced. The Act will strengthen the functioning of the Board in a number of ways, including dealing with issues of non-attendance at medicals and failure to provide details of special damages or loss of earnings. In addition, the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act was commenced on 28 January. As well as of course leading to the full functioning of the database itself, it has also facilitated amendments to sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 which many stakeholders sought in order to make it easier for businesses and insurers to challenge cases where fraud or exaggeration is suspected.
The Deputy will be aware that the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) reported in September 2018 and concluded that soft tissue injuries are significantly higher here than in England and Wales (4.4 times) and recommended that action be taken to address this disparity through the establishment of the Judicial Council. The PIC recommended that this body would become responsible for preparing the guidelines on personal injury award levels, and would replace the Book of Quantum.
While the Working Group will continue to focus on implementing all of its recommendations and will continue to report on its advancements, in the Progress Updates, which hereafter will be produced on a biannual basis, I consider that bringing the levels of damages awarded in this country more in line with those awarded in other jurisdictions is undoubtedly the single most essential challenge which must be overcome if there is to be a sustainable reduction in insurance costs. The current position with the Judicial Council Bill is that the Minister for Justice and Equality has indicated that he hopes that the Bill will be enacted as soon as possible. In this regard, it recently completed Committee Stage in the Seanad. Alongside this, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) is undertaking a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries as part of its Fifth Programme of Law Reform. I understand that an LRC Issues Paper on the matter is anticipated later this year.
Finally, I would like to assure the Deputy that the Cost of Insurance Working Group will continue to focus on implementing the recommendations of the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance in parallel with implementing those from the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance. I am hopeful that the cumulative effects of the completion of the two Reports’ recommendations will include increased stability in the pricing of insurance for consumers and businesses and a more competitive insurance market.