I propose to take Questions Nos. 278, 296, 297 and 303 together.
The matters raised by the Deputies are among those which have been considered by the Cost of Insurance Working Group which was established by the Government in July 2016 and is chaired by Minister of State Michael D'Arcy. The role of the Working Group is to analyse the high costs imposed by insurance companies to determine what actions the Government might take to address any issues that might be contributing to these costs. The Working Group, which involves Government Departments, agencies and relevant stakeholders, has published a series of recommendations in 2017 and 2018, the majority of which have been implemented. The Working Group's Reports and regular updates on its actions are published on the web-site of the Department of Finance with the ninth such Progress Update being due for publication shortly.
A key recommendation of the Working Group was the establishment of the Personal Injuries Commission. The Commission undertook a major analysis of the claims process in Ireland and recommended, as reflected in today's Questions, 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. In response, the Government has successfully brought forward a number of amendments to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 that will provide for the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee. The Committee will be tasked with the preparation of personal injuries guidelines and will have all the powers necessary for it to carry out its functions in an efficient and effective manner. The Bill passed all stages in Dáil Éireann on 4 July 2019 and is scheduled for completion before the Seanad today, Tuesday 9 July 2019, with a view to its enactment before the summer recess and the establishment of the Judicial Council before the end of the year.
As also raised, the Cost of Insurance Working Group had called for An Garda Síochána to explore the potential for further cooperation between it and the insurance sector in relation to insurance fraud investigation. An industry-funded Garda insurance fraud unit was one option considered in this regard. As I have outlined in my responses to a number of parliamentary questions during the current Dáil session, the Garda Commissioner is of the view that a divisional focus on insurance fraud is preferable to the establishment of a centralised investigation unit. This approach is aligned with the divisional-focussed Garda model. It is the intention of the Commissioner that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau will guide divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud. As Deputies will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is solely responsible for such organisational matters, including the establishment of individual Garda units, their remits and resourcing. At the same time, there is now a broader positive engagement between An Garda Síochána and Insurance Ireland's Anti-Fraud Forum who have committed to meet on a regular basis to discuss and act upon current and ongoing issues arising in the area of insurance fraud.