Ireland is facing a "very serious situation" over the cost and availability of insurance, deputy prime minister Mary Harney has warned the government.

In a parliamentary motion on insurance costs, Harney said increased costs were a major threat to many small and medium-sized companies. She said one in five had already reduced their workforce as a result.

Harney promised to put an action plan for the implementation of recommendations of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board (MIAB) report before parliament by the end of October.

The report, delivered in April, made 67 recommendations aimed at reducing insurance costs.

"The plan will focus on improvements to court procedures, the provision of greater information to the consumer and implementation and enforcement of the Road Traffic Acts," Harney said.

She said that she would name the members of the interim Personal Injuries Assessment Board, designed to reduce the cost of delivering compensation, in November.

Her department has also sponsored a Competition Authority study into the insurance industry's competitiveness.