Delivered in Plenary - 12th June 2002
First of all, as PPE-DE shadow rapporteur, let me congratulate my Socialist colleague, Mr Berenguer Fuster, on an excellent piece of work which has achieved a remarkable degree of cross-party consensus within Parliament and the committee.
I am very pleased with this Council common position document, which reads far better and more intelligibly than the initial Commission proposals. It is internally consistent and incorporates some 20 first reading amendments from Parliament, including several that I submitted, such as the need to cater for the electronic age and Internet age by allowing for computer and disk storage of data, exemptions for telephone selling, exemptions for the travel industry for small contracts and action to ensure that the scope of the directive does not extend to the mere provision of information on products.
I fully accept compromise Amendment No 15 relating to transitional provisions to exempt existing brokers and also compromise Amendment No 7 for a regular review of registration as opposed to my original proposal for a three-yearly review.
This was originally carried by the committee in order to ensure the maintenance of high standards of probity and professional standards of the intermediaries, or brokers, as we call them in the UK.
I particularly support the Council proposal for information exchange between competent registration authorities and the fact that the role of the insurance undertaking is prescribed in the intermediaries' registration process, particularly for the tied intermediaries category.
After much deliberation I too will oppose Amendment No 2 as I realise this would pose problems to the Council by considerably reducing the application of the directive. If passed, it would necessarily have to go to conciliation.
I shall support compromise Amendment No 16 to get rid of the best-advice principle, which would impose unacceptable burdens on the industry. I continue to support Amendment No 18, which is designed to reduce the burden on the industry by ensuring that the obligation to provide information applies only when a customer requests it.
In summary, this has the making of a good piece of pioneer legislation which will be an integral part of the financial services action plan and the first designed specifically for insurance brokers. It will serve as a model for other types of brokers in financial products and, not doubt, in other areas as well.
This definitive measure will provide a useful service to Europe's consumers in facilitating a safe and competitive pan-European insurance market with mutually recognised and acceptable standards of professional competence by using the financial passport, with only minimal standards being set, rather than prescriptive harmonisation proceedings, as some would have claimed necessary for such an undertaking.
I congratulate the rapporteur. I look forward to this speedily becoming European law.