720. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Justice further to publication of the Action Plan for Insurance Reform in December 2020 and the areas therein which fall under the remit of her Department, the efforts her Department is carrying out to address rising insurance premiums despite a drop in the value of awards; the list of legislative developments to address this issue; the timescale of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52212/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I am very much aware of the difficulties faced by many small businesses and consumers in relation to the cost and availability of insurance. Insurance reform is a key priority for this Government and is reflected in the Programme for Government, the Government’s Action Plan for Insurance Reform launched last December, and in the Justice Plan 2021.
The Action Plan for Insurance Reform sets out 66 actions designed to bring down costs for consumers and business; introduce more competition into the market; prevent fraud and reduce the burden on business, community and voluntary organisations. The Action Plan includes actions to be taken by my Department, the Department of Finance and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The implementation of the Action Plan is being overseen by the Sub-Group on Insurance Reform within the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment.
As the Deputy may be aware, the Personal Injuries Guidelines were adopted by the Judicial Council to replace the Book of Quantum. Government then approved amendments to the Judicial Council Act 2019 and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003, and the Guidelines came into effect on 24 April, three months ahead of schedule. My Department is tasked with submitting a Report on the impact of the Personal Injuries Guidelines to Government by the end of this year.
The enactment of the Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021 on 21 June this year is a key element of my Department’s work on insurance reform, addressing in particular the issue of exaggerated claims and fraud with the intention of positively contributing to reducing the cost of insurance. The legislation provides a clear definition of perjury and should enable the offence and related offences to be more easily prosecuted in the courts.
My Department has completed a review of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, including the duty of care and notices and waivers. We are currently engaging with the Office of the Attorney General on progressing the review’s recommendations. It is my intention that final proposals on this matter will be brought to Government for its approval as part of a General Scheme of a Bill in due course.
Justice Plan 2021 also contains a commitment to carry out a detailed economic and legal evaluation of measures to reduce litigation costs. Following a robust tendering process, my Department is finalising a contract with the preferred bidder to take on this project. Based on the outcomes, we will propose reforms we believe are most suitable for the Irish legal system.
My Department has examined changes to reduce insurance fraud, including penalties for insurance fraud, in consultation with relevant agencies. A number of measures are being taken to improve reporting of insurance fraud cases to An Garda Síochána’s Insurance Fraud Coordination Office are being advanced in Q4 2021. The Insurance Fraud Coordination Office is an important first step in bringing a level of consistency to the criterion being applied across the board when it comes to the recording, collation, referrals for investigation and the investigations themselves relating to insurance fraud. The report concluded that no further legislative penalties are required at this time, however this matter will be kept under review.