Insurance Costs: Reductions for Workers, Families and Businesses

Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly am 5:15 pm ar 14 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin 5:15, 14 Mai 2024

I beg to move

That this Assembly notes the unprecedented increases in insurance premiums for home, business and car insurance, which are crippling workers, families and small businesses, many of whom are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis; acknowledges that many motorists have seen their quotes increase significantly even if they have not had an accident, speeding fine or a change in circumstances; further acknowledges that the increase in insurance premiums has generated huge profits for the insurance industry and a windfall in insurance premium tax collected by the British Government; recognises that the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority have a duty to monitor and regulate the insurance industry, investigate any allegations of unfair practices and to ensure consumers receive a fair price; calls on these bodies to fulfil their statutory duties to hold the insurance industry to account and investigate the recent increases in insurance premiums; and further calls on the British Government to reduce the rate of insurance premium tax, which puts an additional financial burden on workers, families and small businesses.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The Business Committee has agreed to allow up to one hour and 30 minutes for the debate. The proposer of the motion will have 10 minutes in which to propose and 10 minutes in which to make a winding-up speech. All other Members who are called to speak will have five minutes. Cathal, please open the debate on the motion.

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

Whilst the issue lies outside the Chamber, it is vital that we bring the subject to the Chamber and have this conversation. I have heard people talk about the fact that we have not brought any legislation to the Chamber for a period of time. The motion is important because it affects constituents across the North of the island.

Rising insurance premiums place huge financial strain on workers, families and young drivers.

They are occurring at a time when people are struggling day-to-day during what is an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis. Insurance price hikes are ripping off families and hard-pressed workers. The average insurance cost for drivers is £1,000. Young people are quoted even more expensive costs. It is devastating for young people who have passed their driving test after studying and practising hard to be quoted ridiculous prices for insurance. Average car insurance prices are 57% more expensive than they were last year, and they have doubled for some drivers. Those quotes have been a nightmare for so many people, especially for those who depend on their car for work, to support their family and to get about in general. They have been left with excess costs through no fault of their own, but they have had to bear them because they depend on their car in their daily life.

My office has been contacted by many constituents who are feeling the effects of those unfair rises. They are affecting everyone when times are already tough. Although inflation has impacted on costs, as it has on most things, the hike in premiums goes beyond the rate of inflation. People also feel that they are experiencing discrimination, as insurance companies are basing their quotes on factors that are beyond the customer's control. Some drivers have been charged significantly more than others based on their home address rather than on their driver history. That has been felt particularly by those who live in areas of high deprivation such as west Belfast and the border regions. There is frustration that many customers have seen their premiums rise even if they have not been involved in an accident or received any penalty points. They feel that they are being punished despite their exemplary record on the road.

Rising premiums are impacting on everyone who depends on a car, from teachers to nurses and from taxi men to traders. This is happening during a cost-of-living crisis, when people are already paying increased costs for nearly everything else, including fuel. It is clear that insurance companies need to do better by the people who have no choice but to pay outrageous insurance hikes. The Executive have no powers over insurance, as it sits within the remit of the British Government. The responsibility for regulating the market lies with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP 5:30, 14 Mai 2024

I thank the Member for giving way. He mentioned the FCA. One of its roles is to ensure that people get value for money. Members will have heard from their constituents about the vast range of quotes given. It just shows what is going on out there. The amount that insurance companies are charging is a scandal. One constituent of mine received quotes ranging from £5,000 to £13,000. How does that demonstrate value for money and value for the customer?

Photo of Cathal Boylan Cathal Boylan Sinn Féin

I absolutely agree with the Member. In the debate, we have to try to get the message out however we can. As another member of the Committee for Infrastructure, he will know that we wrote to some of those institutions, and, indeed, that was my next point.

It is worth noting that the Committee for Infrastructure has written to a number of those authorities on the issue of price hikes. The regulatory bodies should fully examine and scrutinise the insurance industry over the ridiculous cost increases.

Sinn Féin supports an investigation into insurance price hikes in order to hold the industry to account. People have had enough of being ripped off. Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for hard-pressed workers and families. I ask those who will speak in the debate, and the Assembly as a whole, to support the motion.

Photo of Diane Forsythe Diane Forsythe DUP

I will first say that my party supports the motion. We are all aware that insurance premiums have been increasing on our cars, homes and even pets. That is putting additional pressure on hard-pressed working families. The Republic of Ireland is having similar problems, with an enormous 10% increase in private health insurance compared with the previous year. That leaves the price of health insurance in the Republic now with basic insurance costing around £1,500, but it certainly can range well in excess of £5,000 a year, and we are truly fortunate to have healthcare that is free at the point of delivery in Northern Ireland via the NHS.

Whilst in the past, insurance premium increases seemed to follow inflation, they have recently shot up by some 12% compared with this time last year, significantly higher than the rate of inflation. We know that car insurance, in particular, is a serious issue in Northern Ireland, especially for young drivers. I am extremely grateful that our DUP colleague, Carla Lockhart, the MP for Upper Bann, has championed that in recent times. She secured a debate on the issue in the House of Commons only two months ago, raising it directly with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Anthony Browne MP. She was supported by Gregory Campbell and Jim Shannon in that debate, both of whom reinforced the point that that level of cost to motorists is unacceptable. This party will never shy away from taking the fight to where the decisions are actually made.

Having examined car insurance in more detail, we know that, on average, 17- to 20-year-olds have had their insurance premiums rise by more than £1,000 compared with last year. Those substantial rises must be examined by the FCA because they are simply pricing many young drivers out of the market. Put simply, the cost of insuring a car for a year is now significantly higher than actually buying the car in the first place. It is most certainly the case that most young people drive responsibly and safely, but it is also the case that the majority of young drivers suffer because of the actions of the minority. That is part of the reason for the spiralling cost of insurance.

We can learn some lessons from other countries about how we progress on this issue. In Australia, learner drivers are statistically 20% less likely to be killed or seriously. The differences are that young people can apply for a provisional driving licence at age 16 and a half, but they then have to drive for 120 hours before they take their test. The average amount of time that young people in the UK drive before they take their test is 40 hours. Those fairly small changes have meant that, in Australia, the number of those likely to be killed or injured has dropped by 20%.

Legitimate questions need to be asked about why the average cost of house insurance in Northern Ireland is £347, while in London, where house prices are considerably higher, it is £309. There seems to be no reason nor rationale for that. Surely that also needs to be examined by the regulator. To widen that point, if houses are more expensive in London and the repair costs are clearly higher, the legitimate question needs to be asked: why are insurance costs higher in Northern Ireland, where the repair costs are significantly lower?

When it comes to our four-legged friends, pet owners in Northern Ireland pay more than owners in Scotland and Wales, but pet insurance is more expensive in England. The cost of pet insurance is determined by breed, and we can easily assume that breeds are fairly spread across the entirety of the UK.

In summary, we are content to support the motion and ask that the appropriate regulators investigate the unexplainably high levels of insurance that Northern Ireland people have to pay.

Photo of Eóin Tennyson Eóin Tennyson Alliance

As other Members have said, whilst this is primarily a reserved matter, I welcome the opportunity to debate this important topic, which has been a leading contributor to the rising cost of living. All of us in the Chamber will have been contacted by constituents about rising costs, with some facing car insurance renewals that are 50% higher than they were just a year ago. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that car insurance increased by 34% between the end of 2022 and the end of 2023. In attempting to justify that increase, the ABI points to a 31% increase in vehicle repair costs and a 35% increase in the cost of providing temporary vehicles.

If you scratch below the surface of those figures, however, you will find that the total of UK insurance payouts increased by just 18%. That data, combined with the fact that insurance premiums in the UK are significantly higher than in many of our European neighbours, begs the question as to whether customers being taken for a ride — the pun is intended on that one, Madam Principal Deputy Speaker.

Nevertheless, those sharp increases are not being felt equally. Sales data examined by 'Which' suggests that as of last September, drivers who pay for insurance monthly are forking out, on average, £300 more than those who pay in a lump sum. Those who spread payments are disproportionately younger and less-wealthy people, leading the head of insurance at the Financial Conduct Authority to describe insurers' interest rates as "a tax on being poor." In order to maximise transparency, insurers' interest rates should be compared in a published league table, with the regulator taking strong action against those who do not provide fair value in line with their statutory obligations.

Younger drivers fare worse in price increases. On average, 18-year-olds now pay £3,145 for their car insurance, which is a staggering £1,300, or 70%, more in the past 12 months. I am deeply conscious that those costs have a hugely prohibitive and regressive impact on employment and social opportunities, particularly in rural areas such as parts of my constituency where public transport links are lacking in choice and frequency and late-night services are non-existent. To be clear, I am an advocate of modal shift, but, if we are to change behaviours, we should do so through progressive and fair taxation and reinvestment in public transport and active travel alternatives, not by relying on rip-off insurance premiums.

The insurance industry states that young drivers are more likely to be involved in crashes. In fairness, that view is supported by data. In 2021, 8,753 under-25 drivers were involved in an accident in Northern Ireland, which means that they were involved in 18% of all car accidents that year. It remains the fact, however, that, as Diane Forsythe said, the majority of young people drive responsibly and, as ever, are suffering as a consequence of the actions of a minority in our community. This is where the Executive have a role: in education, in supporting better and safer driving and in improving road safety. A graduated driving licence scheme is one option that, I hope, the Minister for Infrastructure will consider in due course. We also know that our planning system and flood alleviation measures play an important role in the home insurance premiums that our constituents pay.

I will turn to insurance premium tax. In recent years, under the Conservative Government, there has been a pattern of pursuing tax cuts for the wealthiest in society whilst hiking taxes that are paid by working families. Since the Conservatives formed the Government in 2010, insurance premium tax has increased from 5% to 12%. That adds £67 to the average policy and, again, is regressive in that the cost is highest to younger drivers and those who already fork out the most on car insurance and other insurance. An argument can be made that a targeted reduction for those facing the highest costs would be a progressive intervention.

I support the motion. The Financial Conduct Authority should do more and should consider a full market inquiry into the insurance industry. I also agree that the UK Government need to take a more proactive approach to upholding the FCA's responsibility for proper scrutiny.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion and thank Sinn Féin for tabling it. We will support it. I urge caution to anyone who has tuned in: clearly, we will not be able to resolve the matter today, but it is important that we send a unanimous collective message from the Chamber that we support further regulation of the insurance industry to see these ridiculous premiums come down.

Insurance premiums used to be expensive, but they are now just extortionate. We all see that in our daily life, in our car insurance, our home insurance, our life insurance and our pet insurance. Everything that we pay continues to go up and up every year, and the most vulnerable in our society pay the price. That is clearly the case across Europe, where the average increase in insurance premiums at the moment is between 10% and 12%, but, in the United Kingdom, it is 34%.

The previous Member to speak mentioned the costs that young drivers pay, which surged from an average of £1,423 a year to £2,877 in the past year. We all have constituents in that situation. One contacted me last week: an 18-year-old who had just passed his driving test. He drives a £2,000 VW Golf and was quoted £7,000 a year for insurance. That is half his salary. It is pricing him totally out of the market. He finally got a policy for about £4,500, and he thought that he had done well. It is farcical. That is the point that I made to Mr Boylan in my intervention: the FCA says that it is ensuring that people receive fair value, but how is there such a gap in insurance quotes? None of them is fair. It just seems absolutely ridiculous. We obviously need to see action to extend the role of the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators in dealing with that.

We are trying to encourage more people to use electric vehicles, but the cost of insurance premiums that people pay for electric vehicles has doubled. It costs up to £5,000 a year to drive an EV.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party 5:45, 14 Mai 2024

I thank the Member for giving way. It might be the case, particularly in more rural constituencies such as mine, that the reason for the high level of breakdowns and recovery of electric vehicles is that there is no infrastructure for charging them. That is the case in West Tyrone in particular. Maybe that is a contributing factor to the higher insurance rates.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The Member has an extra minute.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

Thank you for the extra minute. It more than likely is a factor, and I would like to see a lot more electric vehicle charging points across the country.

Those are prime examples of issues that are outside the remit of the individual who is taking out the insurance but that the insurance companies add to it. People are being ripped off. We have heard that the increased costs for insurance companies are around 18% per year, but the average increase in premiums is 34% a year and growing. We are being penalised because the insurance companies want to grow their margins, and that seems to be deeply unfair. I do not want anyone to play a small violin for me, but I have a 15-year no-claims bonus, and my insurance premium has risen by another £300 a year. It seems ridiculous, and we are all in that boat, because everybody in the Chamber has insurance, as has their family, and everyone knows the impact that the cost has.

It impacts our businesses as well, and if we speak to small business owners, we find that the cost of public liability insurance has gone through the roof, as have contents insurance and stock and building insurance. That is virtually impossible for them, and they are running to stand still. That point should also be incorporated into the motion.

I will give an anecdotes. A local sports club contacted me to say that an overseas professional player was coming over, and they wanted to drive for the six-month duration of the season but were quoted between £9,000 and £27,000 for their insurance premium. That beggars belief, and they ended up having to take the £9,000 policy because there was no alternative and they needed the transport. We need to see action.

We all know how nice it is to finally pass your test, given all the hurdles that you have to jump over and the amount of money that you have to spend. Many of our young people are now being priced out of the market and are unable to afford the insurance. Affordable insurance is vital for our economy, because many roles require people to commute or to drive, and those people cannot do either of those because they cannot get the insurance that they need.

I do not want to labour the point for much longer. I agree with everything that has been said, but we should all urge the Financial Conduct Authority to carry out a full investigation of the market. I know that it has resisted such calls to date, particularly following the debate at Westminster, which was referred to. It has a duty and responsibility to investigate, as do all the regulators, and we need to see that investigation carried out as quickly as possible in order to ensure fairness and value for all our constituents.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank my colleague for tabling this important motion. I raised the issue on the Floor in the first week that the Assembly and the institutions returned. It is an important issue that we have been hearing about for some time, but the situation has worsened. When I raised it publicly at the earliest possible opportunity, there was a bit of a reaction, but, ultimately, as the months have gone on, I have heard from more people about the extortionate cost of insurance.

I have personal experience from when I was due to renew my car insurance. To avoid being put out of the Chamber, I will not repeat my reaction when I phoned to renew the insurance, as it was shocking. My insurance had gone up by 65%, which is extortionate, unjustified and could not be explained. There had been no claims; I had simply changed the car, and that was the result. That is the reality for a lot of people, but we have to be honest about the discriminatory effect that that has on low-income families, the working poor, the people who go out to make ends meet every day and the carers who look after people but are not remunerated sufficiently for the cost of the travel to do that important work. Amongst all that, however, is the hidden cost of insurance that means that those people must decide whether they can afford to do the job. The cost and consequences of that for our society and constituents are huge.

I have reached out to many insurance companies about the issue, and I have written countless letters. The SDLP raised it at Westminster as well. However, it is interesting that, when I mentioned it for the first time publicly, the Association of British Insurers almost instantly reached out to me without being prompted, and that showed me that there was nervousness and anxiety about what was going on in Northern Ireland, because, in the absence of the institutions, we did not have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on exactly what was happening. There is a need for the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate what is happening with insurance companies. It is my opinion that they are bogging the hands into the pockets of the people in Northern Ireland more so than those of the people in Scotland, England, Wales or anywhere else. When I asked for an explanation of why that is happening, I was told, as Mr Tennyson rightly articulated, that it is because of the cost of parts going up or the cost of replacement cars for people whose vehicles are in getting repaired. It just does not stack up. In my opinion, the Association of British Insurers is nervous around the issue. That is enough for me to keep pushing at the bruise. We need to get to the bottom of why Northern Ireland is being treated differently from anywhere else.

The issues relating to young people have, rightly, been pointed out. The majority of young people are being penalised and punished. They are out getting a part-time job and trying to stay in education and keep a car on the road. When you live in such a constituency as mine — West Tyrone — you do not have the luxury of public transport links that are sufficient to meet the demands of the local population, so those young people rely heavily on their vehicle. That is putting pressure on parents to support the young people in not only their education but in their means of travel to get to that place of education and to return home.

That is before we even touch on the wider issues with insurance for businesses. I declare an interest as a director of a company. We have seen a huge rise in the level of insurance premiums for businesses. It is an extortionate rise — thousands of pounds more than the previous year, without any justification. An insurance company can come along and say, "We're not insuring you because there was a flood 30 miles down the road". Therefore, you are not covered for that risk, but the insurance company will increase your premium by maybe £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000. It is absolutely ridiculous; as has been described by other Members, it is extortion. We need to call it out for what it is, because it is unacceptable, and it is causing a huge level of pain to our constituents, who are already struggling with the cost of food prices and the cost of living generally, with rising mortgage, rent and electricity costs. It is huge. The insurance companies saw an opportunity in the cost-of-living crisis: they jumped on the bandwagon, slapped the price up and did not care about the consequences for our people.

I will give Members a quick insight: AIG paid out its highest dividend since 2007; Allianz's profit jumped 5·7% to €14·2 billion; Aviva's profit rose 8% to £715 million; AXA is earning 23% per share; and NFU Mutual had a profit of £220 million. They are making huge money off the backs of ordinary people. Today, in the House, whilst we cannot resolve the situation, we can call for action. I am delighted that we are united on that journey.

Photo of Phillip Brett Phillip Brett DUP

I thank Mr Boylan and colleagues for bringing the motion this evening. It is, as others have said, a very important subject. As it was for Mr McCrossan, so it was for me one of the first issues that I raised in a Member's statement, and I instantaneously received an email from the Association of British Insurers asking whether I had any concerns about its activities. I am delighted that all colleagues on the Economy Committee came together to write to the ABI to request that it come to the Economy Committee. Its representatives will be coming tomorrow to set out their stall and try to defend the unacceptable price hikes that have already been inflicted upon the people of Northern Ireland. Kindly, they have sent us 55 pages of a rebuke on why certain things are required, but I am sure that members of all shades will take the opportunity, tomorrow, to highlight to them the clear disparity that exists.

I turn now to my constituency — and yours, Madam Principal Deputy Speaker. There is clearly an attempt by the insurers to focus their major price hikes on communities that can least afford it. Working-class communities the length and breadth of North Belfast are being given the largest price rises, be that in home insurance, pet insurance or car insurance. I receive correspondence on a monthly, weekly and daily basis from concerned parents who have this simple choice: do they pay their car insurance or home insurance, or meet their rent or mortgage payments? Those are the simply unacceptable situations that people in our community are being placed in. As Mr McCrossan so eloquently articulated, it is not as if the insurance companies need the additional profit that they are making.

I turn now to my role as DUP economy spokesperson. It is clear that businesses across Northern Ireland are being hit by unacceptable rises in insurance renewal prices. On many occasions, those are sent very late in the day, meaning that those businesses have no opportunity to shop around or try to make alternative arrangements. This is at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is already hitting the margins needed to pay their staff. With rates being increased and difficulties being caused by increased costs in the supply chain, this is just another example of how businesses across Northern Ireland are being squeezed.

Young drivers who have finally realised their life ambition of passing their driving test are simply unable to receive the insurance that they need. My nephew recently passed his driving test, and his insurance cost three times more than his first Fiat 500, which was 10 years old. It is an unacceptable situation that is repeated in families and households across Northern Ireland.

Tomorrow and in the House, it is important that we take every chance that we can to send a clear message to these companies. The activities that they engage in can only be described as profiting on the back of hard-pressed householders across Northern Ireland. Today, the clear and very strong message being sent from all corners of the House is that we will not accept their lame excuses; we will not allow our communities to be exploited; and we will stand together to call on the FCA, which claims to be the regulator, to act. However, if that organisation is doing nothing to regulate the industry, what is the point of it in the first place? Mr Allen, others and I have written on numerous occasions to the industry's regulatory body asking it to conduct an investigation, and it has refused to do so. If others will not take action and put a spotlight on this important issue, I know that Members on all sides of the House will continue to raise it.

We are very happy to support the motion. Thank you, Mr Boylan and others for tabling it

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

Thank you, Phillip. I call Phillip Brett — not Phillip Brett, sorry.

[Laughter.]

There are too many Phillips.

Photo of Phillip Brett Phillip Brett DUP

I can speak again —

[Inaudible.]

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

No, you are all right. You were marvellous, but we have heard enough.

[Laughter.]

Anyway, I call Philip McGuigan to make a winding-up speech on the motion.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

Philip with one L agus

[Translation: and]

Phillip with two Ls is probably the easiest way to distinguish.

I was not expecting to speak. I am just counting, and six Members have spoken so far. John Hume used to talk about a "single transferable speech", but, on this occasion, Members added in the names of family members or constituents. Everybody talked about exactly the same thing, and that highlights just how important an issue this is and how it is affecting all the people whom we represent across the North.

As Members said, it is important to highlight, as the wording of the motion does:

"the unprecedented increases in insurance premiums for home, business and car insurance, which are crippling workers, families and small businesses, many of whom are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis ... many motorists have seen their insurance quotes increase significantly even if they have not had an accident, a speeding fine or a change in circumstances".

I, like others, can quote numerous examples of people who have come into my constituency office to say that their insurance quotes are more than double the previous cost of their insurance. I can also point to the increasingly ludicrous high quotes given to young drivers on passing their driving tests.

Workers, families, businesses and people for whom having a car is essential in order to work, attend hospital appointments or run their kids to school are already dealing with a cost-of-living crisis and a crisis in the cost of doing business. They cannot help but feel that they are not being treated fairly. Indeed, many feel that they are being ripped off by astronomical insurance premiums. As other Members pointed out, the average insurance policy for drivers in the North is now over £1,000, which would have been unthinkable just a number of years ago. For many younger drivers, it can be £3,000.

The rising cost of insurance is simply unsustainable. Customers cannot be expected to keep paying those costs alongside increased fuel prices and other costs. Insurance companies need to do more to protect their customers. It is simply not acceptable for them to pass the buck and say that it is out of their control. Insurance is a reserved matter — it is under the control of Westminster — so, unfortunately, the Executive have no authority to intervene in the insurance market. However, as other Members said, we can send a strong message to those who should be taking responsibility. I am talking about the FCA: it needs to take responsibility and investigate. Thus far, the response and action from the FCA have been lacklustre, to say the least.

As we debate the motion today, none of those regulatory bodies has carried out an investigation of the insurance industry to ensure that customers in the North are not being subjected to unfair business practices. That needs to happen. If it does not, those bodies risk undermining public confidence in their ability to hold the industry to account and protect customers.

The British Government also need to step up. So far, they have done extremely well out of the crisis through the collection of the insurance premium tax, which has doubled from 6% to 12% in the past decade. Last year, it raked in a staggering £8 billion for the British Treasury, an increase of 10% on the previous year. People have done the calculations: it has added an average of £220 to household bills every year. The FCA and the British Government need to take action to support workers and families. We will continue to press the insurance industry on those spiralling prices and stand up for workers and families who are struggling to afford those costs.

I talked about the single transferable speech. My contribution has added to what has already been said, and I will now quickly encapsulate what others said. My colleague Cathal opened the debate and talked about the spiralling costs, as did everybody else, and the impact that they are having on workers and families who are already struggling. He mentioned geographical discrimination and pointed to the West Belfast constituency in particular.

Diane Forsythe talked about young drivers, in particular, being priced out of the market. She said that, in some cases, the insurance premium is more than the cost of the car. A few Members gave examples of that. She also said that we could learn from the example of other countries, such as Australia.

Eóin Tennyson talked about how the industry has been trying thus far to justify its price increases but that, when they are looked at closely, its arguments simply do not stack up. He dissected its arguments. He said that, while this is a reserved matter, we could have a role in better education and the promotion of driver safety.

John Stewart talked about the need for the further regulation of insurance companies. He said that the increases were having an effect on the most vulnerable in particular. I think that everybody came to the conclusion that, in this case, the most vulnerable and lowest-paid working families suffer the most. He said that he did not understand how the FCA can justify the fairness principle, and he gave examples.

Daniel McCrossan talked about his experience, where his insurance went up by 65% despite him having made no claims. Again, he talked about the discriminatory effect on low-income working families. He and Phillip Brett said that the ABI reached out to them after they raised the matter. As Phillip said, the ABI is coming to the Economy Committee tomorrow. John also mentioned that insurance premiums for not just car drivers but businesses continue to rise extortionately. He pointed out that it not the case that premiums need to rise; he clearly explained that the dividends and profits of a number of the companies continue to rise and that insurance companies continue to make huge profits.

Phillip Brett talked about how the insurance companies are coming to the Economy Committee tomorrow after he and others wrote to them. He talked about the unacceptable levels of the price hikes and said that people in his constituency of North Belfast cannot continue to afford paying for car insurance alongside paying for heating, petrol and other cost-of-living pressures. He also referred to businesses being hit. He gave the example of his nephew's car insurance being three times the cost of the car. He talked about the need for the Assembly to have a united voice in sending a clear message. That has certainly been the key point of the debate.

Everybody said the same things and articulated the impact that this is having on the people whom we represent. The people who are supposed to be looking after the community and regulating insurance companies do not seem to be doing a very good job, and they need to be held to account. That was the basis of the debate.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That this Assembly notes the unprecedented increases in insurance premiums for home, business and car insurance, which are crippling workers, families and small businesses, many of whom are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis; acknowledges that many motorists have seen their quotes increase significantly even if they have not had an accident, speeding fine or a change in circumstances; further acknowledges that the increase in insurance premiums has generated huge profits for the insurance industry and a windfall in insurance premium tax collected by the British Government; recognises that the Financial Conduct Authority, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority have a duty to monitor and regulate the insurance industry, investigate any allegations of unfair practices and to ensure consumers receive a fair price; calls on these bodies to fulfil their statutory duties to hold the insurance industry to account and investigate the recent increases in insurance premiums; and further calls on the British Government to reduce the rate of insurance premium tax, which puts an additional financial burden on workers, families and small businesses.

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin 6:00, 14 Mai 2024

Just give us a few minutes. Take your ease while we change the top Table.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Blair] in the Chair)

Motion made: That the Assembly do now adjourn. — [Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Blair).]