NI training on the brink: Insurers still refusing to provide policies for Northern Ireland riding schools

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Northern Ireland’s largest motorcycle training centre is on the brink of closure and the industry faces collapse as riding schools continue to struggle to secure insurance policies.

“I have spoken to Treasury, the NIO (Northern Ireland Office), the Association of British Insurers, and the Financial Conduct Authority. I have asked what lies at the heart of a decision to suddenly remove cover for motorcycle instructors,” MP Ian Paisley Jr told MCN, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Motorcycling.

Paisley Jr, who is the Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Antrim, approached industry leaders and organisations last month to find out why they are withdrawing from the NI sector as it faces collapse.

MP Ian Paisley Jr

He continued: “They tell me it is a commercial decision where companies have come to a conclusion that there is more lucrative business elsewhere. This is just not acceptable! I have made that known.

“I understand a large household company is looking at a new cover arrangement and I hope this will result on a proposal emerging within days for a solution. This cannot be permitted to continue without an immediate solution.”

One of the schools affected is GO Motorcycle Training in Belfast. One of the country’s largest facilities, they had a legacy policy through a co-owner, however following his sudden death last month, that policy will be cancelled forcing the centre to refuse new bookings.

GO Motorcycle Training

David Given, who runs the school, said: “We are in a dire situation. We have currently stopped accepting any bookings after the June 7. Those who are mid-course will find difficulty completing their courses as there are no other training providers in the vicinity.”

He added: “This time next week I will be advising our 12 employees of their imminent redundancy and the end of their current livelihood and ability to feed their families. We need some help as our business is now being dissolved from us in front of our eyes.

“We have six motorcycles on that policy, and it is not permitted to add our other 10 machines to it to allow us to continue as needed.”

A rider training

There was a sliver of light for the riding school after Lexham Insurance contacted Given in March offering to provide a quote for a new policy, but that was soon withdrawn.

A Lexham spokesman said: “We were unfortunately unable to offer a quotation. We had offered to do our best to seek a quotation – this being an area where we have never placed business before – but were unable on this occasion and the team tried hard over that period but as you will appreciate, we are a broker not an insurer.

“We are still working on this to try to find a solution but at this time have still not managed to find a solution.”

For now, however the future looks bleak for GO Motorcycle Training and every other NI riding school. Given added: “We are now at a loss as to where we can turn next.”

Northern Ireland riding schools in crisis

First publish 29 March 2023 by Stuart Prestidge

GO Motorcycle Training

Road racing in Northern Ireland is back on after receiving an insurance lifeline, but riding schools are facing similar woes – with well established learning centres forced to close due to a lack of cover.

Schools seeking to renew their policies are being told by major insurers that they are no longer going to be offering cover.

Dave Given, who operates GO Motorcycle Training, told MCN: “For some considerable time, there was only one insurer who had policies here and then they refused to take on any more new business. So that meant that only the schools who were already operating were able to continue. There was no opportunity for anybody else to start up.”

GO has a stable of seven instructors and 18 motorcycles, having just bought two from a training school that had to close after being given just two weeks’ notice by their insurer that their policy was not going to be renewed.

MP Ian Paisley Jr

Northern Ireland has around 500 full- and part-time instructors and with their jobs now in jeopardy the industry has called on MP Ian Paisley Jr, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Motorcycling, to intervene.

Paisley told MCN: “I have been in touch with Lloyds’ of London and put in a complaint about brokerage not being extended. I have also contacted our NI Secretary of State as they have a duty to ensure that Northern Irelanders get the same as every other part of the UK.”

MCN contacted the ‘big four’ insurers/brokers for Northern Ireland: Devitt, Lexham, Allianz and NIG for comment.

A Lexham spokesman told MCN: “We have never insured the schools there as the insurer Lexham uses to place its training school insurance has never allowed us to insure training schools in Northern Ireland. They have a relationship with a broker in Northern Ireland where this business is placed, which prevents us getting access.”

Allianz too stated that they have never covered NI riding schools, while Devitt declined to comment.

It is hoped that firms may change their stance following political intervention. Mr Paisley added: “I learned to ride through one of the schools and I know exactly what an important role they play. So it is absolutely vital that we get it back.”

A rider training

An Association of British Insurers spokesman told MCN: “The decision to provide cover and at what cost will always be a commercial one for individual firms, taking into account a wide range of factors such as the location and the types of vehicles being insured, amongst many more.

“Insurers will also typically consider accident rates, compensation systems and legal costs involved in compensation claims.

Whilst the market is currently limited for this kind of insurance, insurers will work with the customer wherever possible to help manage individual risks to keep cover in place. Should a new policy be required, brokers have been able to find cover for schools in Northern Ireland.”

They added: “Any instructor or school struggling to find cover should contact the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA).”