I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 209 together.
As Minister for Finance, I frequently meet companies, lobbying groups and various interest groups on a range of issues that are directly or indirectly related to my role as Minister. The issue of insurance has arisen in those engagements. However my colleague in the Department, Minister of State with responsibility for Insurance Michael D’Arcy T.D., has had a much more significant and ongoing engagement with representatives from insurance companies and other relevant stakeholders in relation to insurance related matters in his role as chair of the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG).
As the Deputy will be aware the problem of rising motor insurance premiums was the main impetus for the establishment of the CIWG. Its Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance was published in January 2017 and makes 33 recommendations with 71 associated actions to be carried out in agreed timeframes, set out within an Action Plan. The Working Group continued its work throughout 2017 and subsequently published the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance in January 2018.
Stakeholder consultation formed the foundation upon which the CIWG’s two reports and their recommendations were developed. This consultation process undertaken by the CIWG involved a wide range of stakeholders representing the different voices within this sector, including representative bodies, the major individual insurance providers and interest groups. The impact of excessive premiums being charged to consumers was a feature of this engagement process with industry.
Since the publication of the reports, my officials regularly raise specific issues affecting consumers during their ongoing engagement with Insurance Ireland. Additionally, there is frequent correspondence with various insurance companies and other bodies with an interest in insurance reform, such as the Alliance for Insurance Reform.
In addition it should be noted that in the past 14 months, Minister of State D’Arcy has had two notable series of meetings with each of the major insurance companies separately. The first took place in June 2018 and concerned the impacts of the storm events in early 2018; the second took place in June 2019 regarding the Judicial Council Bill 2017 and sought commitments by insurers to lower premiums should award levels come down as a result of the new law.
The Deputy should also note that Minister of State D’Arcy and my officials regularly update me on insurance matters, including engagements with the insurance industry and all other interested parties.
In conclusion, I believe in an overall sense the work of the CIWG including its engagement with the insurance industry and other stakeholders is bearing fruit particularly in relation to motor insurance (CSO figures from May 2019 show that the price of motor insurance is now 24.5% lower than the July 2016 peak). However, I do acknowledge that this benefit is not being felt by small business in relation to public liability cover and that further work is required. This is why the passing of the Judicial Council Bill last week was so important as once enacted it will provide scope for the Judiciary to introduce guidelines for personal injury awards which better reflect levels in other jurisdictions. If this happens, I believe it will have a positive impact both on premiums and on the availability of cover.