Tuesday, 7 December 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy for his query. I noted his comments regarding the cardiac situation in Waterford, which we will continue to pursue vigorously. I am conscious another Waterford Deputy and Minister is sitting adjacent to me, who is also advocating strongly for that. I take the Deputy's point on the issue.
On insurance inform, I have a lot of sympathy with the Deputy's comments on the impact of insurance costs on employment, business and enterprise. That is why it is a key priority for the Government. The action plan for insurance reform was published in December 2020. It sets out 66 actions to bring down costs for consumers and businesses, introduce more competition into the market, prevent fraud and reduce the burden on enterprises and community and voluntary organisations. Some 95% of the actions are due to be completed by the end of 2021.
The first action plan implementation report, published in July, shows that tangible progress has been made. The introduction of new personal injury guidelines is one example. Early data from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board demonstrates that award levels have declined by an average of 40%. I take the Deputy's point that we need to see that translated into premium reductions. An office to promote competition in the insurance market has been established, chaired by the Minister of State with responsibility for financial services, credit unions and insurance, Deputy Sean Fleming, who is doing exceptional work on this topic. The Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021 passed all Stages on 15 June. This will make perjury an offence for the first time and will, therefore, help tackle insurance fraud. An insurance fraud co-ordination office has been established within An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy identified the issue of occupiers' liability. He will know that the Department of Justice has recently completed a review of the Occupiers' Liability Act, which included the issues of duty of care, notices and waivers. The Minister for Justice, Deputy Helen McEntee, has noted to Government the intention to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the law in this area. Those proposals are at a very advanced stage. The Minister has indicated that the heads of the relevant amendments have been drafted and advice has been sought from the Office of the Attorney General. The planned rebalancing of duty of care with a view to applying a common sense approach to risk is of particular relevance to leisure and high-footfall activities, as it will help to address so-called slips, trips and falls.
The Minister of State, Deputy Troy, is progressing development of a general scheme of legislative amendments to increase the number of cases which are settled by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, without recourse to litigation and he is working in consultation with the Attorney General on the reform of PIAB and legislative reforms in that regard. A comprehensive programme of action is under way.
The issue will be, as those reforms are implemented and given effect to, whether we can translate those reforms. We need to ensure the translation of those reforms into reduced costs for people, such as households, community and voluntary groups and businesses.