Dáil debates

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Insurance Industry

10:25 pm

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I acknowledge the issue raised by Deputy Cahill regarding insurance cover for rural pursuits. Ireland's unique natural amenities not only play a key role from an economic perspective, more importantly, they also serve to enrich the quality of life in communities across the country. Accordingly, I do not take the challenges of both the accessibility and affordability of insurance for outdoor pursuits lightly. The case the Deputy outlines is really about lack of access. The issue of affordability has not featured in the debate because this is an issue of availability of insurance.

It is important I make the point that there is no single policy or legislative initiative which the Government can take to persuade insurers to provide cover for any particular sector or industry.

Moreover, neither the Government nor the Central Bank can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, nor do we have the power to direct insurance companies to provide cover to specific businesses or individuals. This legal position is reinforced by the EU solvency directive framework, which is directly on this issue. The only situation in Ireland that I can think of where people have a legal obligation to get insurance is motor insurance in the private motor sector and in those cases, there is a process which refers to the declined cases that have to be dealt with. A person must be given a quote, albeit the price will depend on the risk involved. That is the only element in Irish society where the industry can be forced to provide insurance, and that is in the motor insurance area.

Notwithstanding this, we continue to prioritise insurance reform and work is progressing right across Departments on the timely implementation of all the actions outlined in the action plan for insurance reform. Deputies may be aware that the first action plan implementation report was published in July and it shows that significant progress has been made, with 34 of the 66 actions contained therein now completed, with work also under way on the remainder.

As part of my intensive stakeholder engagement on the reform agenda, I have met many groups to discuss the difficulties in obtaining insurance. Accordingly, I am aware of the exit of a number of UK leisure insurers from the Irish market in recent years. This may affect the areas referred to by the Deputy, be it ice rinks or some water sports. The Deputy also mentioned hunting and point-to-point races, which are a separate issue. The new personal injuries guidelines were a key element of our action plan that were delivered ahead of schedule. I believe that when fully implemented across all of the cases encompassed by them, it will lead to a reduction in the cost of claims. In its own right, this will help to attract companies back into the sector to provide policies, where they have been slow to do so at the moment. Early indications are that reductions as a result of this have resulted in a 40% reduction in the cost of those claims, which is highly significant.

It is disappointing to hear that difficulties in obtaining insurance cover is affecting rural pursuits. It was brought to my personal attention last week with one of the major brokers in the area, who mentioned it to the Department a few days earlier. The issue has been brought to my attention only in recent days. I assure the House that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and I will continue to hold insurers to account on previous commitments they have made in this area. A key element will be bringing in the law of occupiers' liability and duty of care. The Minister for Justice is advancing this and it will come before the House shortly.

I recognise the issues and I want to listen further to the particular cases the Deputy has referred to. I will comment on those during my next opportunity in a few moments.


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