I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 188 together.
At the outset, while I have an appreciation of the specific issue the Deputy raises, neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can direct the pricing of insurance products, as this is a commercial matter. In addition, we cannot compel any insurer operating in the Irish market to provide cover to specific individuals or groups, nor can we require them to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products. This position is reinforced by the EU Single Market framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive) which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.
Nonetheless, I can assure you that insurance reform is a priority for this Government, with a view to improving the insurance environment, including for sports and community based groups. In this regard, the recently-launched Action Plan for Insurance Reform contains a range of deliverables, including:
- increasing market transparency through the National Claims Information Database (NCID), including for employer and public liability insurance;
- reviewing the duty of care legislation;
- providing for the Judicial Council’s accelerated adoption by 31 July 2021 of new personal injuries guidelines to replace the Book of Quantum;
- consideration by the Department of Justice of the Law Reform Commission’s recent Report on Capping Damages in Personal Injuries Actions;
- looking at how to further enhance the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; and,
- making proposals on increasing competition in the Irish insurance market.
Recognising that many sports and community-based groups need to see the impact of these reforms as soon as possible, the Action Plan contains 66 actions, 95% of which are due to be completed by the end of 2021. The focus is clearly on completing these actions in the short to medium term. As such, I am hopeful that key reforms around personal injury awards may start to have an impact during this year on the pricing and availability of insurance.
Regarding the Deputy’s query relating to forbearance with respect to sports clubs, I would note that Insurance Ireland last month (27 January) announced a continuance of such measures on behalf of a number of its members. Both Minister of State Fleming and I will continue to raise the issue through engagement with insurers in the coming weeks.
In conclusion, seeking to secure a more sustainable and competitive market through deepening and widening the supply of insurance in Ireland remains a key policy priority for this Government. In this regard, it is my intention, along with Minister of State Fleming, to work with our Government colleagues to ensure that implementation of the Action Plan can have a positive impact on the affordability and availability of insurance for individuals, businesses, community and voluntary groups across Ireland.