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Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019: Committee Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] Later on in the year, if we find ourselves in such an awful situation, I will consider asking the Central Bank if it could give notice to a small number of consumers that they have a run-off period in place, at the end of which they will need to replace their current product with a new product. It is entirely possible that during that period the company may reorganise its affairs to be fully compliant with the requirements of the Central Bank. However, given that we are making all of these changes to try to avoid a consumer protection issue, it is fair to suggest that consumers be made aware of what is under way and what change they might need to make. I will speak to the Central Bank about that.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sections 68 to 71, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 72

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Amendments Nos. 43 to 45, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I move amendment No. 43:

In page 48, line 25, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.

The amendments in the group are similar. I will not press this one to a vote but the reason behind these amendments is to make it compulsory for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to carry out functions under section 5A.(2)(a) and (b), by replacing "may" with "shall". Section 5A.(1) provides that "the Minister may grant an exemption". Similar to an earlier amendment, the purpose of this amendment is not to hinder the Minister or prevent him or her from carrying out his or her duties. It is to try to ensure there is some type of democratic accountability beyond the passage of this legislation and that we have the assent of the Dáil to bring it back here at some stage.

  As I stated, I will not press the amendment. I am making the point that this Chamber is where laws are made and passed. This is an exceptional situation and the passage of this legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas gives Ministers many additional powers contingent on it being in the best interests of the country to do so and that we take at face value the commitments that are being given because we know the urgency involved and the difficulty we are facing. In cases where the Minister makes the order, he or she should revert to the Dáil to obtain its assent. These are not the orders that will automatically kick in but will apply in certain contingencies.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I support amendments Nos. 43 to 45, inclusive. While they are technical, they also impose a requirement on the Minister by replacing the word "may" with "shall" in the section. We had a similar debate with the Minister for Health on health provisions. I take this opportunity to raise the important issue of the insurance green card, which we raised on Second Stage and Committee Stage with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Support, Deputy Ross, and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney. I understand from a previous response from the Minister that this issue is an EU competency and also that it is a matter for the industry to respond. The difficulty is that we need assurance that the issue will be addressed for the people affected. It is not appropriate to simply say it is up to the industry to resolve the matter. People need to be made aware of the requirements. What has the Government done to make people aware of them? We all accept that the insurance green card would be required in the context the UK leaving the EU with a hard crash. People with motor insurance need to know if their insurance will cover them when they cross the Border into the North or the South. This is an extremely important issue for people. While some insurance providers are preparing for this eventuality, are all of them doing so? We do not want some people to be left high and dry and potentially caught out by this issue. We need greater clarity. I am not comforted by the notion that the industry alone should resolve this issue. While I accept the Tánaiste's assertion that this is an EU competency, there is a responsibility on the State to ensure people are at least made aware of these issues.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty To follow up on the point made by Deputy Cullinane, many people are very angry at the idea that a green card will be required and they will have to hold on their vehicle an international insurance certificate to cross the Lifford Bridge. People are simply saying they will not do it and there is no way they will be required to have documentation to cross a bridge they have crossed every day of their lives in certain scenarios.

My insurance company emailed all of its policyholders about one and a half months ago telling us we needed to apply for a green card one month in advance of Brexit. I wanted to know what the process was and whether there would be a charge so I called the company to inform it that Brexit was one month away. I was told to call back in two weeks. When I pointed out that the company had emailed its customers telling us all to apply one month in advance of Brexit, the response was that the company did not really know what was happening. I replied that it should join the rest of us because we did not know what was happening either. However, it had told policyholders we needed a green card if we wanted to be insured while crossing the Border. I was told the company would issue green cards to all those who request them after 29 March when it knew better what the position was. I asked what would happen to me if I was driving in the North on 29 or 30 March as my car could be impounded and I could be in breach of the law. The company then took my name on the basis that it would try to get a green card out to me beforehand.

Most people in Donegal have very little awareness that this is the position and they are not applying for this insurance green card. One issue that aspect really annoys me, and one which the Tánaiste or Minister might bring some clarity, is that the website of the Motor Insurers Bureau, the authority in Britain that issues green cards, states clearly that a person does not need a green card for any European jurisdiction. That position will clearly change after Brexit. It also states that a green card is not required for Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland, which are covered. As such, there are countries outside the European Union to which the green card does not apply. We have known for more than two years that Brexit will happen and we knew there was potential for a hard Brexit. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the issue of drivers being required to carry in their vehicles an international travel document was not resolved beforehand. This is a very serious issue and it works both ways. Telling people travelling from the Bogside to Buncrana that they need to carry such a document is anathema to them. They are not happy with it and they will not accept it. It is not right.

This is an area on which the Government, particularly the line Department, should receive genuine criticism for not having its homework and preparations done. This issue should never have arisen given that we can see that drivers in other countries are exempt from the requirement to carry a green card. We are told this is an industry issue or a matter for the European Commission. Citizens of many other countries do not need to display the green card. Why the hell was the North of Ireland not part of that? We have been talking about the Good Friday Agreement and the Border in the Brexit context for the past two years.


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