I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 3 together.
Neither the Central Bank of Ireland or I 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. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance, which expressly prohibits rules that require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products. Consequently, I am not in a position to direct insurance companies as to the price or the level of cover to be provided either to consumers or businesses. A further constraint is the fact that, for constitutional reasons, Government cannot direct the courts as to the award levels that should be applied. In summary, therefore, there is unfortunately no quick-fix solution to this matter.
I wish to re-emphasise, however, that this issue remains a priority for the Government. The Cost of Insurance Working Group, established three years ago, is continuing to work to implement the recommendations of both of its reports. Its most recent progress update was published in July and shows that the vast majority of recommendations and actions due by quarter 2 of 2019 have been completed.
Looking to the future, some further measures will be carried out by Government over the next few months. These include the following the commencement of the remaining parts of the Judicial Council Act 2019, which provides for the establishment of a personal injuries guidelines committee. It is now a matter for the Judiciary to put in place the Judicial Council and to operationalise the personal injuries guidelines committee, which will introduce new guidelines to replace the book of quantum. This is an essential step if award levels are to be reduced. We will have the completion of the Central Bank’s feasibility study into adding employer and public liability insurance to the national claims information database, which is due by the end of the year. We will have the completion of the CSO's feasibility study into tracking the cost of business insurance, as it does with other forms of insurance, including motor. The CSO is due to report back to my Department by the end of the year. There is also the Law Reform Commission's work to undertake a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries. It is expected that there will be a public consultation on this by the end of the year. We will also see the furtherance of measures necessary to implement pre-action protocols for personal injury cases, beginning with medical negligence cases.
I have been engaging with insurers to seek a commitment that they will reduce premiums and widen their risk appetite should there be a recalibration of award levels downwards once the new personal injury guidelines are introduced. In this regard, I am encouraged by the comments made by a number of insurers at the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach in July that they would be prepared to pass on such savings in such circumstances. The Deputy should also note that a number of UK insurers that have recently exited the Irish market have also expressed a willingness to re-enter it in the event of a recalibration of awards downwards.