Dáil debates

Thursday, 28 September 2006

3:00 pm

Joe Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Question 8: To ask the Minister for Transport the requirement under EU law to establish a national motor insurance database; the progress to date in this regard; the body or bodies responsible for establishing such a database; the manner in which it will be funded; and when he expects such a database to be operational. [30079/06]

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The fifth motor insurance directive, No. 2005/14/EC, in regard to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles was adopted on 11 May 2005. The directive amends and expands on the previous four motor insurance directives. The fifth directive must be implemented by 11 June 2007. It requires each member state to establish a national motor insurance information centre. The purpose of the information centre is to make available, on request, insurance and other details to involved parties in the event of a motor traffic accident. Persons involved in accidents will therefore have a means to confirm the insurance and vehicle details of other parties to the accident.

The fourth motor insurance directive already requires the establishment of an information centre to provide details of insurance and vehicle ownership in the case of accidents involving foreign registered vehicle which occur in this country. The Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland currently discharges this function and provides this information by accessing the national vehicle file maintained by the vehicle registration unit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The fifth directive therefore extends the requirements of the fourth directive to cover all motor traffic accidents, irrespective of where the vehicles are registered.

My Department, with the assistance of the Irish Insurance Federation, commissioned preliminary studies into the establishment of the expanded national information centre. The consultants, Aspen Connect and Tekenable, have proposed a technical solution to enable the necessary information to be accessible to the information centre on request.

My Department has primary responsibility for the establishment of the information centre and discussions have taken place with the insurance industry and with the Vehicle Registration Office of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in that regard. Over the coming months, it is planned to run a pilot project before full implementation, with a view to having the information centre in operation by June 2007. The funding requirements have yet to be determined.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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The problem is that nobody has agreed to fund the database. The Garda faces a major difficulty in dealing with road traffic offences, particularly those involving injury and loss of life, because it has no way of discovering information on whether a particular driver is insured. There is no national database accessible to the Garda. That information should be available on the hand-held computers of gardaí. This lack of access to adequate information is part of the reason it is so difficult to enforce road traffic legislation.

The Minister is ultimately responsible in this regard. My understanding is that a turf war is ongoing between the relevant Departments and the insurance companies in regard to who will pay for this service. It is the Minister's responsibility to cut through that and to ensure we comply with the directive and, more important, that access to vital information in respect of motor insurance is available to the Garda in processing cases. Does he intend to take action in this regard by living up to his responsibilities to put a database in place as promised and required under the directive and, if so, when does he propose to do so?

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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As I said in my reply, this database must be in place by June of next year and I intend that to be done. I have obtained solutions from the technical experts and they are currently working out the detail of that. A pilot scheme will commence early next year and the full system will be in place by June. The funding implications will be finalised on the basis of the working solution that is established. This is an issue we need to have in place which is why I have decided to deal with it and meet the timeframe I am obliged to fulfil.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Is the Minister committed to funding this?

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The funding arrangements will depend on the solution reached. However it is funded, the funding agreement will be finalised in time to allow this system to be in place for June 2007, as agreed.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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It seems late in the day to agree on the basic issue of funding. Can the Minister commit to saying it will be publicly funded or that an arrangement will be in place well before June 2007?

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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Others have responsibilities also. I am not convinced that all the costs should be borne by the taxpayer exclusively. I am sure the Deputy would agree on that point.

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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My concern is that these delays will continue and we will not meet the June 2007 deadline.

Photo of Martin CullenMartin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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We have a timeframe and an objective and we must tackle this.