Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Bill 2018: Second Stage


2:45 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Ar dtús ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabnáil leis an Teachta Broughan for allowing Deputy Michael Collins and me to speak before him. I appreciate it.

The Minister of State has been in the job a couple of years and he published the cost of insurance report, the consideration of which went on for a very long time. The report eventually came up with 50 or 60 recommendations. What we need to do is put manners on the insurance companies and ensure they show respect for their customers, the people who carry the can. What they are doing is daylight robbery. For a long time, there were advertisements about the fellow making false claims who had his hand in my pocket and the Minister of State's pocket. The insurance companies have their hands in all our pockets and they have been getting away with it for decades.

I have been a small businessman since 1982 and in that time insurance costs have become prohibitive. Deputy Michael McGrath stated earlier that not only had prices gone mad but people were getting less cover. We are paying through the nose and getting higher excesses applied to premiums. In my business, they affect the height and depth at which we can work. After yesterday's storm, people will be crucified again. People think they are covered for everything until something happens. The huge excesses and premiums are destroying business in both urban and rural Ireland, although it has a greater impact in rural Ireland because it is crippling young people who cannot get into the jobs market.

We debated the BusConnects service for Dublin in the House yesterday. Rural areas do not have a bus or transport system. My nephew, who is 19 years old, insured his car last week. It cost him €4,800 for a car he bought for €1,400. In fact, he is not insured at all. He is being monitored and can only drive a certain number of journeys. It is another matter if he goes over that number. It is disgraceful. It is extortion and daylight robbery. After getting an apprenticeship, that poor chap must travel to work and if he cannot get there, he will lose his job.

The same applies to some people who go to college, not to mention all of the things the Government is putting on top of them, including measures taken by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, for which the Government voted in favour. The L-plate driver cannot go anywhere without his or her father or mother. His or her parents may have bought the car and paid the motor insurance premium, while also working to try to keep the roof over their heads. There is no joined up thinking.

The insurance industry is a laugh. It is operating like the cartel in the beef industry or the cartel we now have in County Tipperary with Coolmore Stud which is buying up every snippet of land. It is also like the other cartels that control the country, the Minister of State, this and previous Governments. You are so in hock to it that it has you where it wants you. I would not like to say where that is, but it is. It is not listening to any of us here. This House has become totally irrelevant. We talk about the insurance industry and have received reports and had investigations, but what happened to them? The Government came up with 70 or some astronomical number of recommendations. What is wanted is five or six strong and respected recommendations which could be forcefully implemented and the implementation of which could be monitored. What is happening is daylight robbery. That is all it is. I am aware that the cost of some insurance policies has gone up by 300%. The voluntary sector is being crucified. Volunteers, including, for example, those in various GAA and sports clubs and those who have had a huge input for the ploughing association in the past three days in helping with parking and so on to help to raise funds, are the ones who will be hit. The purpose of their fundraising is mainly to meet the cost of insurance premiums which now represents half of the costs of organisations.

It sickens me that the legal industry is untouchable and considered to be the elite and the crème de la crème, but it will not fight any case. That area of the Bill needs to be stiffer with reference to the issue of retention. It must be considered in tandem with an impact analysis of the costs for those who are self-employed A business can only keep a CCTV recording for one month, but some Joe Soap might come along and make a claim against it after a month and one day. They are being so advised. I hear solicitors advertising for business. Touting for business was banned for decades and should be banned again. It is a case of no foal, no fee and let the patsies pay for it. Solicitors are encouraging people to claim and make spurious claims. It is despicable practice. They should not be allowed to pursue the no foal, no fee approach. They charge enough and just pass on the fee to the fools who are paying for insurance. The cost is passed on in higher premiums and people can go to hell or to Connacht.

People are beyond breaking point. The insurance companies need to be taught a huge lesson and brought to the table. For over two years An Garda Síochána has had a report on the issue. It tried to get industry representatives to sit down and engage in quarters one, two, three and four. The same happened this year. If the Government had any courage, the industry would be told upfront that insurance premiums could be disbanded and that the cost could be placed on cars and lorries through the price of fuel such that people would pay as they went. That would suit my neighbour who only drives when she wants to collect her pension payment once a week in her local post office. From 31 January she will have to travel to Clonmel because her local post office is closing. She might also drive to mass. If there are fast drivers, reckless drivers or commercial drivers, they would pay according to their usage of the roads. It would make sense to get rid of these dirty, rotten, stinking cartels. If one calls any insurance company, one must wait on the telephone line for 20 minutes and then key in one's date of birth and so on in order to obtain a quote. Strangely, a lot of quotes are the same.

Where is the regulator? We have more regulators in this country than GAA players, but they are useless, toothless and fruitless. People are appointed - we have had another appointed to the Housing Agency - and they are good jobs for the lads. When they are given these cushy jobs, they get comfortable and become part of the system. They are brought out to dinner and for a meal and on foreign trips, but they do not do what they are supposed to do because we are not policing them. We are not putting robust legislation in place. We do not involve people who are the makers and shakers such as the community and voluntary sector and small to big enterprises and the self-employed. It should not just be left to the cartels. We will have a wasteland in County Tipperary if we allow a cartel to buy up all of the land. We had it with Larry Goodman in the case of cattle. We had a suckler cow system and now know the state it is in, while the Government stands idly by. We will not need schools and will not have sports teams because we will not families and others living in rural areas. The Government is driving us out of business. Imagine charging a young fellow €4,800 for car insurance, having paid the cost of lessons, taken the driving test and bought a car. They are safer drivers than many of us who took the driving test 30 or 40 years ago.


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