I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 19 together.
The Deputy will be aware that in July 2016 the Government set up a special working group chaired by Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, to analyse the high cost imposed by insurance companies, and to determine what action the Government might take to address any issues that might be contributing to these costs. The cost of insurance working group published a series of recommendations in 2017 and 2018, the majority of which have been implemented, and work is ongoing to implement the outstanding recommendations. The Personal Injuries Commission, PIC, also undertook a major analysis of the claims process in Ireland and recommended that the future judicial council be assigned the function under its statute of compiling guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury.
On the specific question raised by the Deputy on the capping of insurance awards, the cost of insurance working group is examining the issue of the introduction of legislation for the purpose of capping the damages which a court may award in respect of personal injuries. In response to recommendation 5 of the working group's January 2018 report, the Law Reform Commission is now carrying out 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. This forms part of the commission’s fifth programme of law reform, which was approved by the Government earlier this year. The commission is giving this project immediate attention with the aim of publishing an issues paper over the coming months. In its final report of July 2018 the PIC, chaired by the former President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, noted this development and expressed the belief that the Law Reform Commission is the appropriate body best equipped and resourced to undertake this study.
As emerged in the course of the working group's deliberations, this is an area of the law replete with complex constitutional and legal issues. It was recognised that the State must be cognisant of the constitutional rights of all parties and must balance those rights to ensure that any encroachment on them is justified, proportionate and in the common good.