Ar an 6 Márta thug Comhairle na mBreithiúna tacaíocht do na treoirlínte úra atá le leibhéil na ndámhachtainí i gcásanna díobhálacha pearsanta a ísliú. Beidh éifeacht aige seo ar chomhlachtaí árachais agus beidh ísliú i ndán maidir le costais éilimh. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil buntáiste anseo do chustaiméirí. Lé rófhada tá na comhlachtaí árachais ag glacadh lámh ar chustaiméirí maidir le costais árachais agus caithfidh stad iomlán a theacht air seo anois. Caithfidh na treoirlínte úra seo costais árachais a ísliú do na custaiméirí.
The Judicial Council voted at the weekend to adopt new personal injury guidelines. This will see a reduction in personal injury awards, including for minor injuries. These new guidelines will replace the book of quantum, which sets general guidelines for awards in general injury claims. The Government approved these new guidelines on Tuesday. We welcome that and Sinn Féin supports these guidelines as we facilitated the passage of the Judicial Council Act in 2019.
We did so because we were told that would result in a reduction of the cost of insurance for hard-pressed consumers. These new guidelines reduce the cost of personal injury awards by more than 60% in some cases. Immediately after we heard the news that these new guidelines had been approved, representatives of the insurance industry went out spinning and spoofing. On the national airwaves, insurance industry representatives refused to commit to immediately reducing insurance prices despite these guidelines slashing the cost of claims. This stance was in complete contrast to previous claims from the insurance industry.
I will read into the record what industry representatives told the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach in 2019. In July that year, the CEO of Allianz told the committee that, "when we price insurance, and we are pricing insurance for the next 12 months, we have to set out our premium on the basis of what we expect to happen in terms of the number of claims over that 12-month period". The insurance companies therefore are not looking at past costs but at the future cost of claims. As a result of these new guidelines, those payouts have now been substantially reduced.
In fact, representatives from the industry went even further in telling us the levels of price reductions we should expect as a result of reduced personal injury awards. In October 2019, the CEO of Zurich Ireland told the committee that if soft tissue personal injury awards were to fall by 50%, then reductions of up to 15% in the cost of motor insurance would be expected. Regarding public liability insurance affecting businesses, he stated that we should expect reductions of 20%. Indeed, he said that the committee should ask serious and hard questions of the insurance industry if that did not happen. We know these guidelines go beyond the 50% reduction that he had suggested. Motorists should be experiencing real reductions in premiums today, tomorrow, next week and next month. It should also include business renewals. That is what was said straight from the horse's mouth when the industry wanted us to pass the legislation and wanted the Judiciary to cut the awards.
We have passed the legislation and the Judiciary has cut the awards but the industry is trying to wriggle out of the commitments it has made. The insurance industry will see the expected cost of claims significantly reduced. From today, the money those companies will have to pay out on awards will be significantly reduced from what was previously the case. Therefore, we should see an immediate reduction in the premiums being charged from this point onwards. This is the road we have gone down. The industry has nowhere left to hide and insurance companies must commit to immediate reductions in insurance premiums for motorists and for businesses.
Does the Tánaiste believe that the new guidelines should result in immediate reductions in insurance costs for consumers? What role will the Government play in ensuring that these cost savings for the insurance industry will be passed on to consumers in the form of lower insurance premiums? Did the Tánaiste or anybody in the Government get commitments from any of the insurance industry companies that there would be an immediate reduction in insurance premiums, as there should be?