As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I nor the Central Bank of Ireland can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. Consequently, I am not in a position to direct insurance companies to provide flood cover to specific individuals or businesses or in particular areas. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.
As outlined, in my reply to the Deputy’s most recent question on this issue, Government policy in relation to flooding is focused on the development of a sustainable, planned and risk-based approach to dealing with flooding problems.
This commitment is underpinned by a significant capital works investment programme within the region of €250 million spent on flood relief measures over a five year period from 2012 to 2016. The Capital Programme covering the period 2016 to 2021 will see the current annual allocation for flood risk schemes increased from €45 million to €100 million by 2021, representing a total investment of €430 million. These works will be completed on a prioritised basis.
This is a coordinated whole-of-Government approach led by OPW with relevant local authorities and other bodies to maximise the level of resources available to address flood relief works. Due to the cost and scale of these types of flood defence works, it is an approach which will see benefits over the medium to long term.
The above approach is complemented by a Memorandum of Understanding between the OPW and Insurance Ireland, which provides for the exchange of data in relation to completed flood defence schemes which should provide a basis for the increased provision of flood insurance in areas where works have been completed.
Under the MOU, the OPW requirement is that insurers who are party to the agreement take full account of information provided by the OPW on completed flood defence schemes, when assessing exposure to flood risk. The MOU does not guarantee the availability of flood risk cover in the locations for which information has been provided by the OPW. The MOU recognises that the provision of insurance cover, the level of premiums charged and the policy terms applied are a matter for individual insurers based on the risk they are willing to take on a case by case basis.
The role of the Insurance Ireland/OPW working group, which meets quarterly and the Department of Finance attends, is to support the information flow and improve the understanding of issues between both parties. Therefore, the examination of options or making recommendations for flood insurance for areas which are not included in any tranche of flood defence work does not come under the remit of the group.
Any person with an insurance-related query or complaint can contact Insurance Ireland's Insurance Information Service (01 676 1914 or firstname.lastname@example.org). In addition, the Financial Services Ombudsman (01 567 7000 or email@example.com) deals independently with unresolved complaints from consumers about their individual dealings with all financial service providers.