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 Header Item Departmental Staff Data (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2019: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
 Header Item Personal Injuries Commission

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 990 No. 4

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The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Earlier, Deputy Martin asked about the future structure of British-Irish relations after Brexit. He rightly pointed out that after Brexit we will not be in a position to meet British Ministers in the way we do now, three or four times a year at Council of Ministers meetings in Brussels or more frequently at the European Council. One of the suggestions we are working on is to strengthen and restructure the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and use that Good Friday Agreement institution as a mechanism to ensure structured engagement between the Irish Government and the British Government. It is something I intend to pursue with the Prime Minister if he is re-elected or the new Prime Minister if there is one in the next couple of weeks. The matter of landing cards has not been discussed to my knowledge with the British Government but we will monitor any proposals as they develop.

With regard to Israel and Palestine, I have not had any engagement with the Israeli Government or Israeli politicians but I met the leadership of the Palestinian Authority when they came to Dublin. The Tánaiste is in Israel and Palestine this week and is continuing his efforts to deepen our engagement in the region and help to bring peace to the territories.

Deputy Boyd Barrett asked about meaningful EU action such as sanctions. The simple fact is that when it comes to issues such as defence and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU only acts with unanimity and there will not be EU action given that the 28 countries are not unanimous in their positions on Israel. Some are very supportive of Israel and others are closer to the Palestinians. Without a move to qualified majority voting on foreign policy, I do not see EU-wide sanctions being imposed or action being taken.

I have met President von der Leyen twice and I hope she will be able to visit Dublin soon. We will be at the European Council next Thursday and Friday. I will be watching the UK results come in on Thursday and Friday at the European Council and it promises to be an interesting meeting. The next steps will really depend on the results of the UK elections. There is the possibility of a special Council in January or February to set out the EU's negotiating guidelines for the next phase of talks, which will be negotiations with the UK on the free trade agreement and security and political partnership, but that is all a few steps ahead because we do not yet know what the outcome of the UK elections will be next week. Michel Barnier will remain in the role as negotiator on behalf of the EU, and Phil Hogan as trade Commissioner will have a central role given that a huge part of the future relationship will be free trade.

With regard to Irish issues, I hope we will still have the team of me, the Tánaiste and the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, in place for the next phase of discussions. It would be very much in the country's interest that this be the case, given the contacts and competencies we have built up over the past two and a half years in representing Ireland when it comes to Brexit.

I must be honest and say I have not been following the events in Bolivia closely but I absolutely condemn any military coups wherever they occur.

Estimates for Public Services 2019: Message from Select Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The Select Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection has completed its consideration of the following Supplementary Estimate for public services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2019 - Vote 37.

Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed)

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Personal Injuries Commission

 39. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys the timeline for implementation of each of the 14 recommendations made by the Personal Injuries Commission regarding personal injury awards. [50374/19]

Deputy Eamon Scanlon: Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon This question is on the timeline for implementation of each of the 14 recommendations of the Personal Injuries Commission regarding personal injury awards.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. During its 18 month work programme, which concluded in July 2018, the Personal Injuries Commission, PIC, delivered two reports with 14 recommendations. The first report of PIC, published in December 2017, made four recommendations. The first recommendation was the adoption of a standardised approach to the examination of personal injuries. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, has rolled out a standardised template to its independent medical panel. I understand Insurance Ireland has distributed the medical reporting template to its members. The second recommendation was promotion of best practice training for medical professionals completing personal injury medical reports, and PIAB has engaged with relevant providers on this. The third recommendation relates to the book of quantum, which has been superseded by PIC's second report, which recommends that a judicial council, when established, be requested by the Minister for Justice and Equality to compile judicial guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury. The fourth recommendation was that relevant injury data be collated and published by appropriate bodies. PIAB has since published data in line with this recommendation.

The second and final report made a further ten recommendations. I expect that they should be implemented as soon as possible by the relevant bodies. Recommendations Nos. 1 and 2 relate to the judicial council described earlier. Recommendation No. 3 proposed that the Law Reform Commission bring forward legislation to cap damages that a court may award, and this work is under way. Recommendation No. 4 provides for the development and roll-out of best practice standard treatment plans for soft tissue injuries and is being worked on by the HSE. Recommendation No. 5 proposed that no offer of settlement or payment of a personal injury claim can be made unless and until a detailed medical report has been obtained. Insurance Ireland has advised that it is standard practice for insurers to base personal injury claims settlements on medical reports. Recommendation No. 6 requires claimants to give prompt notification, within one month, of any potential injury so that a proper investigation may be undertaken. This was addressed through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019.

Deputy Eamon Scanlon: Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon We all agree the 14 recommendations are very important, but will the Minister indicate whether the Government will take the issue seriously and commit to agreeing a timetable for implementation of all the recommendations with the various bodies, including the Garda Commissioner, Insurance Ireland, the Law Society and the Bar Council, to give certainty to Irish business and consumers? Last Sunday, someone from a small enterprise rang me. That person will be forced out of business. People are very concerned. People think we are doing nothing about this, quite honestly. We need to make people aware and let people know that we are serious about this, and we will try to help them and try to keep people in jobs.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys I am, as I know the Deputy is, very aware of the serious impact of high insurance costs, particularly liability insurance, for businesses and consumers. We as a Government are using every lever at our disposal to bring down insurance costs. We have done a huge amount of work and I expect all of this work will pay dividends. The Judicial Council Act has passed, which means that once the new council is in place, it will establish a personal injuries guidelines committee comprising judges and mirroring the models in place in neighbouring jurisdictions. It will draw up the guidelines of the level of damages that should be awarded in personal injuries actions. This should promote consistency in the level of personal injuries damages awarded by the courts. These guidelines will replace the book of quantum.

I also note that comments made last month by the interim Insurance Ireland CEO, Mr. Gerry Hassett, that if award levels come down, so will premiums. This is the secret to success here. I believe the judicial council and the committee will make a huge difference to the price of insurance.

Deputy Eamon Scanlon: Information on Eamon Scanlon Zoom on Eamon Scanlon It is extremely important that the Minister and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, engage with PIAB.

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