27/02/2004

Beggs calls for government action on insurance premiums

Ulster Unionist Chief Whip, Roy Beggs, has called on the Government to tackle increasing insurance premiums for small businesses in Northern Ireland.

It follows findings by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment which reveal that average insurance increases for local small businesses have risen by 62% in recent times. Sole traders, meanwhile, have also seen premiums rise by more than 100%.

Addressing Small Business Minister, Nigel Griffiths, during Trade and Industry Questions in the House of Commons Mr Beggs said: "The top priority concern of the 60,000 small businesses in Northern Ireland is insurance. Some 99.98% of small businesses believe that the Government have not yet done enough.

"What are the Government doing to address the problem of the huge rip-off of insurance for small businesses?"

Responding, Mr Griffiths said the Government viewed insurance as a matter for the private sector companies that provided it. "I do not think that the problem is as acute as you suggest, but I am willing to consider any evidence that you care to submit to me."

Local Enterprise Minister, Ian Pearson added “The survey findings confirm that local businesses have experienced significant increases in insurance premiums over the past few years. Although the amount of increase last year generally is not as great as in the previous year, it is nevertheless an issue of real concern."

The Minister said that the DETI, Invest NI and the Health and Safety Executive NI were committed to working with the insurance industry and organisations, to explore ways in which the effects of these increases can be mitigated.

"We also intend to continue to monitor developments in this area and will be liaising closely with the Department for Works and Pensions and HMT on the issue," he concluded.

(MB)

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