NI government minister takes no action on car insurance rates

One government minister has refused to take any action on the exorbitant car insurance rates those living in Northern Ireland are experiencing, according to SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie.

NI drivers face a distinct dearth of discount car insurance, a fact that was brought up on the House of Commons floor in a debate, but Mark Hoban refused to make concessions and instead pointed to the Office of Fair Trading investigation into the situation.  The debate ended a day already packed with drama, as a packed house listened to Liam Fox, the ousted Defence Secretary, read a statement, and also with the house being read Prime Minister’s Questions.

However, as the adjournment debate was secured by the SDLP leader, only nine MPs remained in the chamber. Ms Ritchie highlighted a recent survey conducted by the Consumer Council that found motorists in Northern Ireland paid an astonishing 84 per cent more for motor car insurance than drivers in the rest of the UK.

The MP for South Down was highly critical of the reasons given for the massive disparity, as accident rates have been decreasing steadily over the past few years.  Additionally, Northern Ireland has banned referral fees, which have been blamed for the increased insurance premium prices that have been crippling so many drivers across the UK.

Jack Straw, former Home Secretary, launched a bill to completely ban referral fees in both Wales and England, and has been backed by many MPs. The strong progress the bill is making through the Commons prompted Ms Ritchie to call for an identical action in regards to the insurance situation currently gripping Northern Ireland.

However, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Hoban, instead drew attention to a study that had been prepared for Stormont, which had found that there was a relatively high accident rate in Northern Ireland, and that the province also had higher legal fees and compensation levels than the rest of the UK.

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