Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Business Insurance: Motion [Private Members]
I thank Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. I compliment Deputy Michael McGrath on bringing forward this motion. It is timely because this is one of the issues that is continually discussed when one meets business advocacy groups and individuals. They consistently highlight the fact that the cost of business - and, in particular, the cost of insurance to business - is creating a very negative impact across the broader economy.
In its report on the cost of doing business, the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation, of which I am a member, indicated that this was the issue most highlighted by all the witnesses that came before it . Employer liability and public liability were the two key issues raised on a continual basis. There is no point in pretending that we have prioritised this matter. The fact is that we have been lethargic in addressing it. The Minister of State set up working groups to examine the cost of motor insurance and he has set up another group to examine the cost of business and public liability. However, we have not moved at a pace that would satisfy the demands of those in the business community.
Deputy Michael McGrath's motion does not involve reinventing the wheel; it merely highlights the issue and calls for what everyone in this House and at the various fora have agreed is needed to address the cost of insurance. I refer, for example, to a fraud insurance squad and addressing the issue relating to the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 in order to ensure that there is a full referral of fraudulent claims to the DPP. Those two matters could be addressed immediately. We accept that the Judicial Council Bill is delaying the implementation of the book of quantum from the PIAB in conjunction with the judicial council. There are a number of key issues the Minister of State could address very quickly.
I want to speak about insurance fraud. Such fraud saps the morale of decent, hard-working people. I refer to those who get up in the morning, pay their taxes and all the other service charges and who are employing people across this country. A chancer or a fraudster can come onto one of their premises, fall in the toilet and then make a fraudulent claim knowing that there will be no sanction whatsoever for doing so. If the same person goes in, jumps over the counter and takes money out of the till, there will be a criminal investigation. There could be a criminal sanction but if someone goes in and falls, makes a fraudulent claim and it is proven in a court of law to be fraudulent, there is no down side. That is a shameful indictment of this Parliament and the Government because we are not sending out a message that people in business should at least be afforded the basic protections of the State in ensuring their businesses can operate and be protected against the actions of chancers, fraudsters and criminals. That is one issue the Minister of State could take action on quickly. I ask him to progress the Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill to the next Stage.