At the outset, it is important to note that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can direct the pricing of insurance products, as this is a commercial matter, nor can we compel any insurer operating in the Irish market to provide cover. This position is reinforced by the EU Single Market framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive), which expressly prohibits Member States from doing so.
Nonetheless, I can assure the Deputy that insurance reform is a key policy priority for this Government. In terms of motor insurance specifically, I would note that figures from both the Central Statistics Office and National Claims Information Database have shown that average premium prices have declined in recent years. Nonetheless, there is still a need for reforms to ensure that premiums also reduce and stabilise for other insurance products, in particular those of interest to businesses, including SMEs, such as employer and public liability insurance.
There are a number of areas that require reform and this is why making progress on these will require a ‘whole-of-Government’ approach. This is recognised in the Programme for Government, which lays out commitments that are aimed at addressing consumer and business concerns on the cost of insurance. These include increasing transparency; reviewing duty of care legislation; looking at how to further enhance the role of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board; minimising the scope for questionable claims; and increasing market competition. Implementation of this ambitious agenda has commenced and will be a key issue for myself and Minister of State Fleming, as well other members of Cabinet, especially those that will be working on this issue through the recently established Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment’s Sub-Group on Insurance Reform. This Sub-Group is currently working on an Action Plan for Insurance Reform and it is our intention to have it published before the end of the year. This will lay out the specific actions and timelines for implementation, and who is responsible for doing so.
In terms of the discussions my Department has had on this issue, Minister of State Fleming and I have held a number of meetings with key stakeholders in recent months. These include bilateral meetings with the Alliance for Insurance Reform and Insurance Ireland. Most recently as part of a comprehensive engagement on the Government’s new insurance reform agenda, Minister of State Fleming concluded meetings with the eight largest non-life insurers in the Irish market, the Law Society, the Bar Council, Brokers Ireland, and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland. These meetings are in addition to those with other Government entities, as well as numerous inter-Departmental working group meetings on the issue of insurance reform in advance of the publication of the aforementioned Action Plan for Insurance Reform.