Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Business Insurance: Motion [Private Members]
I thank all Deputies who contributed to the debate. The debate is not what is important. What is important is what follows. I want the Minister of State to use this debate as leverage to get more support and more movement on some of the key issues involved. It is a concern that there were no Ministers from the Departments of Justice and Equality or Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Only the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, spoke while Deputy Neville was here for some of the debate. There was little evidence of the Minister of State's Government colleagues from the key Departments which he needs on board to bring about these reforms.
Getting down to brass tacks, what the Minister of State said about the Judicial Council Bill is new and I welcome that it will go to Committee Stage in the Seanad by the end of this month. He challenged all of us to have the Bill enacted by the summer. We will certainly play our part on this side of the House.
The Minister of State’s speech, which was circulated to Members earlier, does not inspire me with confidence. It states:
Legislative proposals in relation to this matter are at an early stage of development and when that developmental work has been finalised, it is envisaged that any resulting amendments will be the subject of consultation with the Judiciary in keeping with the collaborative approach which has marked the development of the Judicial Council Bill.
Will we get this done by the summer? We have to because we have no choice.
These guidelines which will eventually emerge cannot be too loose. If they are not tight, then this will not work. One person, who happens to be in the Gallery this afternoon, told me that going before the Judiciary to defend against a personal injury claim is like a lucky dip. That is not good enough. If these guidelines are too loose, then this simply will not work. They have to be tight in respect of their scope and application. We will work with the Minister of State to get that done. We will not accept any further delay in dealing with that.
The Minister of State did not have any good news on insurance fraud and the establishment of a Garda fraud unit. I know the Garda is operationally independent. However, the Minister for Justice and Equality needs to engage with An Garda Síochána to establish its views on this issue. It is not good enough that we cannot get information on whether files relating to alleged insurance fraud go to the Director of Public Prosecutions, whether any prosecutions are taken or whether convictions occur. No reports are provided in this regard. That is not good enough and this information must be made available.
There are people in the Gallery, as well as others at home and at work, who are facing the closure of their businesses. I am as able to criticise insurance companies as anybody else. It is justified in many instances. However, there is a problem when none of the insurance companies operating in Ireland is willing to provide cover in certain sectors. We have play centres reliant on Axa XL and nightclubs reliant on Lloyds in the UK. These areas are particularly exposed because there is only one insurance company, UK-based, providing cover. As these businesses face closure, will the Minister of State seek to engage directly with these insurance firms? It is a small number of firms but they have significant sway in respect of the continuation of insurance cover at reasonable rates for these sectors. I will work with the Minister of State in doing that but we need to engage with those insurance firms immediately. Otherwise, inherently good, profitable and viable businesses will be shut down as a result of the cost of insurance. None of us wants that. We must use this debate to bring about change. The sense of urgency cannot be lost. The fact some businesses have closed is regrettable. Many more will follow. We need to deal with this issue.