Brexit Negotiations

Ceisteanna (59)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

59. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on the request made by the Prime Minister of Finland to the UK to submit its written alternatives on Brexit to the European Commission and Council by 30 September 2019; if the matter was discussed with him beforehand; and his views on same. [38842/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

We note the call, on 18 September, by the Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne to Prime Minister Johnson to produce his proposals in writing to facilitate discussions, by the end of September.

It remains the EU’s position that the best way to ensure an orderly Brexit remains through the Withdrawal Agreement and that the backstop is the only viable solution on the table that avoids any physical infrastructure and related checks and controls, fully protects the Good Friday Agreement and North-South cooperation, and preserves the all-island economy, as well the integrity of the EU Single Market and Ireland’s place in it.

The EU is however, willing and open to examine any such proposals that meet all the objectives of the backstop. This point was reiterated by Michel Barnier on 20 September following his meeting with UK Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay.

As I have stated on a number of occasions, the onus is on the UK to bring forward workable and legally operational solutions as soon as possible, if a deal is to be reached.

Living Wage

Ceisteanna (60)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

60. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of workers employed by his Department and in each office or agency under the aegis of his Department who earn less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

The remuneration of directly employed staff in my Department is sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in line with Government policy. Our assessment is that there are currently 322 officers within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who earn less than the living wage. This excludes temporary seasonal staff. There are no State Agencies under the aegis of my Department.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (61, 62, 67, 72)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

61. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the input and involvement of Ireland in the draft international treaty on business and human rights to be discussed at the fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group in Geneva in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38282/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

62. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 147 of 26 March 2019, if Ireland will be represented at the fifth intergovernmental conference of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights which takes place in October 2019 in Geneva; his views on a treaty regarding human rights and transnational corporations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

67. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the international treaty on business and human rights; if a representative will attend the fifth session of negotiations in Geneva in October 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38298/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to engage with the fifth session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group in Geneva in respect of its discussions on a proposed international treaty on business and human rights; the stance Ireland plans to take if attending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38886/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 62, 67 and 72 together.

The question of a legally binding treaty to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises has been under consideration by the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises. The Group was established on foot of a Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014, led by a number of developing countries, including Ecuador and South Africa. Four sessions of the Group have taken place to date.

Notwithstanding our serious concerns about the way in which its work has been conducted, Ireland is among those countries which favours participation in the annual sessions of the Inter-Governmental Working Group. We also believe that all stakeholders, including civil society, trade unions and business, should be enabled to participate and are concerned by reports that they may be excluded from the next session which will take place in October in Geneva. Ecuador has circulated a revised draft treaty in advance of this meeting which contains some positive developments compared to an earlier version presented in 2018. At this stage it is foreseen that the EU will attend the forthcoming session and, while welcoming the improvements in the draft, will signal that it is not in a position to enter into detailed negotiations pending completion of a comprehensive analysis. It is likely however that the EU will avail of the opportunity to pose a number of questions on issues of concern.

Ireland is open to looking at options for progress on a legally binding treaty. With regard to its scope, we believe that all economic operators, whether transnational or purely domestic, should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. We would also wish to see essential human rights principles reflected in any possible instrument, which should reaffirm the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and stress the primary responsibility of States under existing human rights obligations to protect against human rights violations.

Ultimately, if it is to achieve its objectives, any legally binding instrument should enjoy broad support among UN Member States to ensure its effectiveness as well as international coherence in the framework of business and human rights. On this point, I would note that of the 22 countries which to date have adopted National Plans on Business and Human Rights, 16, including Ireland, are EU Member States. We would like to see any new initiative build on, rather than duplicate, existing measures such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy. Above all we believe that it should be rooted in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In this regard, we are of the view that the UN Working Party on Business and Human Rights and the annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights provide appropriate fora for consideration of any new initiatives.

Foreign Conflicts

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 61.

Ceisteanna (63, 64, 65, 66)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

63. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recent decision by India to revoke the autonomy of Kashmir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38294/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

64. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports that all communication including Internet and mobile phones have been cut off in Kashmir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38295/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

65. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that have been taken at EU and international level to ensure that the fundamental human rights of Kashmiri people are being upheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38296/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

66. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the response of the EU to recent developments in Kashmir; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38297/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 to 66, inclusive, together.

I am aware of the ongoing situation in Kashmir and my Department is monitoring developments closely. I hope that the situation will be resolved peacefully, and support the EU’s position, which is in favour of direct dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Ireland also supports UN Secretary-General Guterres' call for restraint from all parties, and continues to work within the EU and the UN to address concerns of human rights violations in Kashmir. The EU’s recent statement at the UN Human Rights Council, which Ireland supports, encouraged the Indian Government to continue to lift remaining restrictions and to maintain the constitutional rights and freedoms of the affected population.

Officials in my Department, including in our Embassies in India and Ankara (which is accredited to Pakistan), will continue to monitor the situation.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 61.

Human Rights

Ceisteanna (68)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

68. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position of the Rohingya; the efforts being made at EU level to safeguard same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38299/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since military operations in Rakhine State escalated in August 2017, an estimated 720,000, predominantly Rohingya, refugees have fled to Bangladesh. A significant number of Rohingya civilians were also internally displaced within Rakhine and 128,000 people remain in IDP camps having fled previous bouts of violence. Recent months have again seen an escalation of violence in Rakhine State and neighbouring Chin State due to ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Security Forces and ethnic armed groups. The situation remains unstable with increasing violence generating further displacement of civilians.

Ireland, together with our EU and UN partners, has consistently called for the accountability of those who are responsible for such crimes and we continue to advocate for, and support, actions at international level to address this crisis.

The EU has been at the forefront of the international response to the Rohingya crisis. Targeted restrictive measures have been put in place by the EU against senior military officers of the Myanmar Security Forces responsible for these acts and further measures are being kept under review. The EU Foreign Affairs Council has adopted a series of Council Conclusions addressing gross human rights violations in Myanmar’s Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. These conclusions press for Myanmar to hold those responsible for these crimes to account and to take meaningful action towards the creation of conditions conducive to a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of those displaced to their places of origin.

In addition, the European Commission is currently reviewing Myanmar’s trade preferences under the framework of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

The EU has also worked with our international partners to press for action at UN level including acting as pen-holder on several key initiatives including the establishment of both the UNHRC mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission and the recently operational Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. These are important steps in ensuring accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.

Furthermore, in January of this year, I attended the EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brussels, during which the crisis in Rakhine State was raised directly with Myanmar and with our ASEAN counterparts.

Ireland will continue to work with our EU colleagues, and wider partners to respond to the situation and to press for long term solutions to the crisis. Ultimately, the best long-term framework for a sustainable solution that addresses the concerns of the Rohingya, including the key issue of securing citizenship rights, remains the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

Foreign Conflicts

Ceisteanna (69)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

69. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of the situation in Yemen; the response of the EU to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38300/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I continue to be gravely concerned about the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Over four years of conflict have resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the country’s economy decimated and millions on the brink of famine.

The EU has been clear from the beginning that the crisis in Yemen can only be solved by political means. Ireland and the EU fully support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to bring about a political resolution, including his efforts to ensure implementation of the 2018 Stockholm Agreement between the Government of Yemen and the Houthi de facto authorities. EU Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Yemen twice this year, and our support for the UN process has been unequivocal. UNSE Griffiths has thanked the EU for its support in getting the parties to the table and sustaining the political pressure, saying it would not have been possible to reach agreement in Stockholm without the EU.

Despite the positive sign which the Stockholm conference last December represented, recent months have seen continued violence. The opening of a new front in August in the southern port city of Aden is a worrying development in what was already a multifaceted and extremely complex conflict. Coalition airstrikes in Dhamar province on 1 September killed dozens of people, and Ireland fully supports the EU statement in response to that attack. Ireland's position on attacks against civilians and violations of international humanitarian law has been very clearly conveyed to Saudi Arabia.

The EU is the largest donor to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM). UNVIM was established in May 2016 to facilitate more efficient verification that imports of commercial goods at Yemen's ports do not contain arms . Following the Stockholm Agreement, UNVIM has also been assigned the role of supporting the Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation in the management and inspection of ports. The UNVIM operation is making an important contribution to ensuring the continued flow of commercial goods to Yemen.

This conflict has had devastating humanitarian effects, with almost 80% of the population of Yemen in need of humanitarian assistance. The EU is a very significant donor to Yemen, and has contributed over €700 million in development and humanitarian assistance to the country since the crisis began in 2015, including €440 million in humanitarian aid alone. In addition to contributing our national share to these EU funds, on a bilateral basis Ireland has provided €21.5 million in humanitarian assistance in Yemen since 2012.

Ireland, the UN, the EU and the wider international community will continue to play an important role in attempting to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and facilitate a political solution for the people of Yemen.

Diplomatic Representation

Ceisteanna (70)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

70. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to deploy additional staff to the embassy in New Zealand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

As part of the Global Ireland strategy of investment in the broadening and deepening of the diplomatic and consular network of the state a new Embassy was opened in Wellington, New Zealand, in November last year.

The allocation of resources throughout the international mission network supports the effective and cost-efficient delivery of the goals of my Department. These include the provision of consular services to citizens, the advancement of Ireland's economic and business interests, the promotion of our values and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

The staffing complement in missions abroad, including in Wellington, are aligned closely with business goals and subject to regular review.

Public Services Card

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 61.

Ceisteanna (71)

John Brady

Ceist:

71. Deputy John Brady asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason for ending the requirement for a public services card for applications to the Passport Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38805/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Since March 29 2016, the Passport Service has required all first time passport applicants, aged 18 and above, who are resident in Ireland to submit a copy of their Public Services Card (PSC) with their passport application. This requirement also applies to adult applicants whose most recent passport has expired more than five years previously and to adult applicants whose passport was issued before 1 January 2006 and has been reported as lost, stolen or damaged.

Upholding the integrity of the Irish Passport is a key commitment of the Passport Service and the Passport Service believes that the presentation of the PSC is an important means of identity verification for applicants, particularly adult applicants making first time applications.

The PSC is the most efficient way for an applicant to verify their identify and ensure that their application can be processed quickly. The Passport Service will continue to accept a copy of an applicant’s PSC as valid identification for first time adult applications and other applicable categories of application.

In circumstances where the applicant does not present their PSC, an application can proceed if an applicant either presents original Government-issued photographic identification, such as a driver’s licence or a passport from another country, or attends for interview in person at the Passport Offices in Cork or Dublin.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 61.

VAT Rate Application

Ceisteanna (73)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

73. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a guidance issued by the Revenue Commissioners in May 2007 that advised that food supplements were allowed to be supplied at a zero VAT rate as they were defined under the Value-Added Tax Act 1972. [38222/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I can confirm that my attention has been drawn to the document referred to by the Deputy as set out in my replies to previous PQs on the matter (35731/19 and 36296/19).

I am advised by Revenue that the document was an internal document prepared in 2007 and that it was never published on the Revenue website. The document has no legal value or authority over VAT legislation in place on 1 January 1991 or subsequently and has no legal effect. It does not mean that food supplement products were legally zero rated on 1 January 1991 or subsequently.

Irish VAT law does not provide a zero rate for food supplement products and under EU VAT law Ireland is precluded from introducing such a provision. A zero VAT rate for food and drink is provided for under a derogation from EU VAT law which allows Member States to retain certain zero rates for goods and services which were expressly covered in their national VAT legislation on 1 January 1991. The legislative provision for food and drink was in place on 1 January 1991; however, there was no legislative provision for food supplement products and therefore they cannot be legally zero rated.

Shortly after the introduction of VAT, Revenue allowed the zero rate to be applied to certain food supplement products (vitamins, minerals and fish oils). This concessionary approach expanded as the market developed over the years and resulted in the zero rating by Revenue of further similar products, including products other than vitamins, minerals and fish oils and references included on the VAT rates database and other information on the Revenue website simply reflected this practice. The evolution of the scope of the concessionary treatment of certain types of food supplement products was well understood by the industry and by agents representing clients in the food supplements sector and has never been disputed by Revenue.

Revenue has acknowledged that the scope of its zero rating concession had broadened progressively over time to the point that it had become increasingly difficult to maintain an effective distinction between food supplement products that could benefit from the zero rate and those that were standard rated. Revenue acknowledges that this concessionary approach was unsatisfactory and led to diverging and inconsistent practices. There were continuous efforts by elements in the industry to expand the zero rate to products that should be standard rated, including products claiming to enhance male fertility, promote hair growth, boost tanning, avoid a hangover and reduce stress.

Following complaints from the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), Revenue conducted a comprehensive review of the VAT treatment of food supplement products, including getting an expert report on the definition of food for the purposes of the VAT Consolidation Act. The expert prepared a detailed, scientific report that concluded that food supplement products are not conventional food. Based on the expert report and its own legal analysis, Revenue concluded that the status quo was no longer sustainable.

Following this review, Revenue engaged with my Department concerning policy options that might be considered in the context of Finance Bill 2018. The relevant legislation was not changed in Finance Act 2018 and therefore Revenue issued new guidance in December 2018 which removed the concessionary zero rating of various food supplement products with effect from 1 March 2019. Following representation from Deputies and from the industry, I wrote to Revenue outlining my plans to examine the policy and legislative options for the taxation of food supplement products in the context of Finance Bill 2019. Revenue responded by delaying the withdrawal of its concessionary zero rating of the food supplement products concerned until 1 November 2019. This will allow time for the consideration of any legislative changes in the context of Budget 2020.

Over the last few months, my Department carried out a public consultation on the taxation of food supplement products. The consultation sought input from a wide range of interested parties, including from health and nutrition experts and the Minister for Health. The results of the consultation were included in the recently published 2019 VAT Tax Strategy Group (TSG) paper as part of the Budget 2020 process, available here: https://assets.gov.ie/19123/083625ae43d948c88917c749a2ff6b57.pdf

The options outlined in the TSG paper will be considered in the normal way as part of the budgetary process.

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Ceisteanna (74)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

74. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Finance the yearly wage cost of a whole-time accountant at the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General. [38691/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The majority of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s staff are either qualified accountants or are training to become qualified accountants (the exception being seven administration / corporate services staff members).

The Trainee Auditor pay-scale ranges from €33,630 to €52,519

All other employees’ salaries and wages are in line with the general civil service pay-scales as follows:

- The Auditor pay-scale is equivalent to Higher Executive Officer

- The Senior Auditor pay-scale is equivalent to Assistant Principal

- The Deputy Director pay-scale is equivalent to Principal Officer

- The Director of Audit is equivalent to Assistant Secretary

Living Wage

Ceisteanna (75)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

75. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Finance the number of workers employed by his Department and in each office or agency under the aegis of his Department who earn less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38241/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I wish to inform the Deputy that 25 workers in the Department of Finance earn less than €12.30 per hour.

Of the 17 bodies under the aegis of my Department, I am informed that 8 currently have no staff earning less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour. These are the Credit Review Office, the Credit Union Advisory Committee, the Credit Union Restructuring Board, the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal, and the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.

The number earning less than the living wage of €12.30 per hour in each of the remaining 9 Bodies under the aegis of my Department can be found in the table below.

Body

Number of employees earning less than €12.30 per hour

Office of the Comptroller and Audit General

2

Central Bank (incl. Investor Compensation Company DAC)

17*

National Treasury Management Agency (incl. Home Building Finance Ireland; the National Asset Management Agency; the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland)

4**

Office of the Revenue Commissioners

1,260

Tax Appeals Commission

6

* The Central Bank provides administrative, support services and payroll services to the Investor Compensations Company DAC.

** The National Treasury Management Agency provides administrative, support services and payroll services, to Home Building Finance Ireland, the National Asset Management Agency and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

Eurozone Issues

Ceisteanna (76)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

76. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Finance his views on the suggestions by his EU colleagues to revamp the eurozone fiscal rules; if the matter is being considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38292/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The European Fiscal Board (EFB) recently published its assessment of the EU’s fiscal rules. This report will feed into the European Commission’s review of the Six- and Two-pack which is due to be published by the end of the year. The EFB’s report was also discussed at the recent Ecofin meeting in Helsinki.

The EFB’s report indicates that while compliance with the EU fiscal rules has improved across all Member States, the rules have become increasingly complex and this may have had a negative impact upon ownership. In particular, the current rules’ reliance on unobservable variables such as the output gap, which of course feeds directly through into the structural balance, has impacted upon the reliability and communicability of the framework. My own Department has highlighted this on several occasions.

For this reason, I support efforts to increase the transparency, predictability and simplicity of the fiscal rules. That said, I accept that there are difficult trade-offs involved. This means that finding agreement may be challenging.

My officials and I will continue to actively engage in these discussions.

Budget Submissions

Ceisteanna (77)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

77. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the issues raised in a budget 2020 submission (details supplied) taking into account the additional challenges facing the sector due to Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38329/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

As the Deputy will be aware, it is a longstanding practice of the Minister for Finance not to comment, in advance of the Budget, on any tax matters that might be the subject of Budget decisions.

Insurance Industry

Ceisteanna (78)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

78. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that there is a competitive market for insurance here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

The Irish insurance sector is diverse, comprising life, non-life and reinsurance firms operating across a range of product and geographical markets. As Minister for Finance, I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation of the sector. This framework is mainly governed by the EU Solvency II Directive, which provides for three ways in which an insurance undertaking can operate within the Irish market. These are to:

- establish a head office in Ireland (authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland);

- establish a branch in Ireland through Freedom of Establishment (FOE); or

- operate on a Freedom of Services basis (FOS), i.e. conduct business in Ireland from another country.

It should be noted that there are companies operating in each of these channels in the Irish insurance market. The Solvency II framework is designed to allow for a level playing field across the European Union for insurers, not only in terms of access to markets within the EU, but also with regard to the level of supervision and regulation. Therefore it plays an essential role in facilitating competition in the insurance sector across the EU.

However, there are other factors, beyond the legal and regulatory framework which also inform the decision making processes of insurance companies as to whether or not to operate or to continue to operate in any country. For example, the number of claims, the level of awards for personal injuries granted, the legal costs associated with settling/defending claims, and the time taken to settle claims will be important such considerations for insurers. In this regard, there has been some sectors of our economy such as the leisure, adventure and hospitality sectors where, because of these aforementioned factors, insurance cover has either become unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Indeed, I understand that in recent meetings in London between Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy TD, and a number of UK insurers/underwriters who have recently left the Irish insurance market, the reasons above were outlined as factors in their decision to leave the Irish market. Therefore for these parts of the Irish market there is undoubtedly an issue around its attractiveness and this consequently has impacted on competitiveness.

Consequently, in order to create a more competitive environment, the Government is focussing on implementing the recommendations of the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG), including those of the second Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) Report. That Report concluded that soft tissue injuries are significantly higher here than in England and Wales (4.4 times) and recommended that action be taken to address this disparity through the establishment of the Judicial Council. The recently enacted Judicial Council Act 2019 provides for the establishment of this Council, which will allow for the recalibration, by the Judiciary, of award levels for personal injuries. It is now a matter for the Judiciary to establish the Judicial Council and the subsequent Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee. While the Government cannot interfere in their deliberations due to the constitutional separation of powers, it is my hope that the Judiciary will recognise the importance of this issue and will prioritise it accordingly by completing a first set of guidelines, which take account of the PIC’s benchmarking report, as soon as possible. At the same time, the Law Reform Commission (LRC) has begun a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries, taking account of Constitutional considerations as part of its Fifth Programme of Law Reform.

I believe that the creation and implementation of the Personal Injuries guidelines by the Judiciary will result in the lowering of award levels. As importantly, I believe it should lead to a greater consistency in award levels for injuries of the same type. This therefore should mean that there will be less of an incentive for a person to litigate, as they should not be getting any more from a court award than a PIAB award, which in turn should have a significant impact on legal costs. In summary, I believe that over time the clearest signal that these changes are working is when there is an increase in the number of PIAB cases being accepted by claimants particularly for minor and moderate injuries. In addition, I believe that the cumulative effects of the completion of the CIWG recommendations will include increased stability in the pricing of insurance for consumers and businesses and a more competitive insurance market overall. Furthermore, Government expects that the market will adjust positively to these developments and thus competition and competitiveness throughout the market place should materially improve.