Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2009: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 685 No. 3

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Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

This miscellaneous Bill contains a number of distinct, important provisions and it can be broken into four parts. First, there is a provision to give effect to the continued operation of existing direct debit mandates after the introduction of the Single Euro Payments Area direct debit scheme; second, there is a provision for the transfer of assets of certain pension funds to the National Pensions Reserve Fund; third, there is a provision to allow the Minister to extend the period for which financial support can be provided under the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act; and, fourth, there are a number of amendments to other legislation.

I wish to deal first with Part 5 of the Bill which makes a technical change to enable, with Oireachtas approval, the extension of the guarantee contained in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008, beyond the current expiry date of 29 September 2010.

I have been open and transparent about my approach to this issue. I note the considerable amount of discussion on this matter in the House today. This issue was first signalled on 11 February last in the context of the announcement of the details of the recapitalisation programme. It was again signalled on 7 April in the supplementary Budget Statement to the House. The reason it was signalled is that it is essential to revisit the current guarantee, subject to European Commission approval and consistent with the EU state-aid requirements, in ways which will support financial institutions in Ireland in accessing longer-term finance. As this House is aware, Ireland was one of the first member states to introduce a guarantee. The other European states have now either explicitly or implicitly introduced such guarantees. We are not unique but many of those guarantees extend far beyond the expiry date of 29 September 2010 and, hence, financial institutions in these countries have a considerable competitive advantage over our banks. It is essential not to extend the entire guarantee but to modify it to ensure [457]our institutions are not put at a competitive disadvantage by virtue of the more extended guarantees which other jurisdictions have made. This is the essential issue here. There is no power in this Bill to allow me to extend the guarantee on the stroke of a pen; a positive resolution of the Oireachtas will be required were such to happen. It is subject to EU state-aid requirements and the amendment of the Act to facilitate longer-term debt issues by participating institutions of up to five years maturity, in accordance with the Budget Statement, is essential. The necessary modification of the guarantee may well take place from the commencement of the statutory instrument. Access to longer-term funding is in line with the mainstream approach in the European Union. It will contribute significantly to supporting the funding needs of the financial institutions, to secure their continued stability and to enhance their potential to discharge their central role in facilitating economic activity. This will require state-aid approval.

I wish to make clear at this stage that there is no question of issues of subordinated debt being covered by any such extension. That is not the issue involved and, unless that issue be raised, I am anxious to point out and to put on the record of the House that dated subordinated debt will not be part of any such extension.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Is the Minister giving the House a schedule of the matters that will be part of the measure? I wish to raise a point of order.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I am speaking on Second Stage and in possession. I am entitled on Second Stage to introduce a measure to this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  That is not a point of order. I ask the Minister to continue.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The Commission has signalled a number of issues regarding liabilities to be covered. We are working to resolve these difficulties. If these can be resolved, I hope to bring the necessary statutory instrument before the House before the summer recess when we will have ample time to discuss and, as a Parliament, approve or disapprove, of the nature of the securities covered. To avoid us going down the route of having a debate about subordinated debt, I simply want to make clear at this stage, for the assistance of Members, that this is not one of the securities in the contemplation of the Government in our discussions with the EU Commission. Clearly the securities that were referred to in the budget speech and which are the subject matter of our discussions, are the longer-term debt issuance where other banks in other European countries are now at a competitive advantage in accessing such funding by virtue of the more extended guarantees which such countries have given. The details of these matters are under discussion with the Commission and at this stage what is sought is a statutory authority so that we are in a position to introduce an instrument for the approval of this House.

I will deal with the details of each section of the Bill in turn. Section 2 provides for the continued operation of existing direct debit mandates after the introduction of the Single Euro Payments Area direct debit scheme. This scheme will be introduced in November 2009. This industry-led initiative is a major component of the development of a single EU market in payment services. The SEPA direct debit scheme will enable customers of any EU bank to set up a direct debit on their account regardless of the country in which they live. It has the potential to make travelling and working in other member states much more flexible in terms of, for example, paying utility bills. A significant hurdle in the introduction of the SEPA direct debit scheme is the need to make sure existing direct debit instructions continue to be valid. The Bill contains a provision enabling the Minister for Finance to make regulations to provide for the continued validity of existing direct debit instructions, subject to the need to ensure [458]customers are properly informed of the fact that their direct debits will move to the new direct debit scheme rule book.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with the transfer of assets of certain pensions funds to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. Part 3, comprising sections 13 to 14, contains provisions to facilitate the transfer of pension funds in the universities and certain State bodies, to the National Pensions Reserve Fund, to enable the payment on a pay-as-you-go basis of the benefits currently covered by those funds and to offset the value of the funds transferred against annual contribution obligations under section 18(2) of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act. The funds in question, which are set out in Schedule 1 of the Bill, are the pensions funds of the five older universities: Trinity College; University College Dublin; University College Cork; National University of Ireland, Galway; and National University of Ireland, Maynooth and the National University of Ireland, together with certain State bodies: Forfás; SFADCo; FÁS; An Bord Bia; the Arts Council; and Fáilte Ireland in respect of the regional tourism authorities and the fund for former CERT employees.

The pension schemes of the five older universities and some of the non-commercial State sponsored bodies, SSBs, are unique in terms of their structure and relationship with the State. The non-commercial SSBs concerned are part of the public service, with the State and the Exchequer ultimately responsible for their funding, and their pension liabilities must be seen in that context. The universities concerned have part-funded pension schemes, with retirement lump sums and basic pensions paid from the funds, while post-retirement increases are paid by the State on a pay as you go basis. This is different from the position in respect of the pensions of the newer universities and entrants to the older universities from 2005 onwards, whose benefits are paid on a pay as you go basis and are met via the core grant provided by the State.

The Universities Act 1997, provided that all the universities should introduce new pension schemes along the lines of the public service model and since February 2005, such arrangements have been in place for all new entrants to these universities. The funded schemes are, therefore, closed to new entrants since that date.

All funded schemes in the public service must now meet minimum funding standards under EU law, specifically the IORPS Directive, unless they are, effectively, guaranteed by the State. This has placed the universities concerned in a situation where they have to be able to show there would be sufficient cover in their schemes to meet the potential liabilities arising, with potential implications for the universities’ finances generally, or that the State would clarify its supporting role to give the cover required. Some time ago, a working group under the Higher Education Authority examined the situation and recommended that the best way forward was for the State to initiate discussions with the trustees and administrators of the funded pension schemes concerned, who would then consult with their members with a view to the winding up of these schemes, and the takeover by the State of the assets in the funds. The liabilities of the schemes would then be met on a pay as you go basis in the future with the assets transferred to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. It is not possible to predict if the assets will eventually prove to be sufficient to meet the future liabilities. This will depend on how they perform over time.

The transfer of the assets of pension funds in the universities and certain non-commercial State bodies to the National Pensions Reserve Fund where the assets will be managed as part of the reserve fund has a number of advantages. Rather than having a number of relatively smaller funds attempting to manage their deficits while at the same time meeting current pension benefit outgoings, it is preferable to have the assets managed for the State in the reserve fund where there will also be the benefit of economies of scale. With no drawdowns before 2025, the reserve fund can accept periods of volatility as a trade-off for achieving a long-[459]term return that will make a meaningful contribution to Ireland’s future pension costs and the sustainability of the pension system.

Section 3 defines terms in Part 3 of the Bill. The section also clarifies that the assets to be transferred do not include assets covering additional voluntary contributions on a defined contribution basis. Following the transfer, the funds of these AVC schemes will be held in a separate trust for the contributing members.

Section 4 provides an interpretation of the phrase “relevant pension scheme” both before and after the transfer of the assets in a covered pension fund. This is important in the context of continuing the scheme members’ benefit structure following the transfer.

Section 5 provides that the relevant Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, make an order transferring the assets of a covered pension fund to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. The transfer order in respect of a particular fund will determine the date of effect of the transfer of the fund. It will also confirm the instruments and other documents underpinning the “relevant pension scheme” referred to in section 5. A transfer order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas with a notice published in Iris Oifigiúil.

Section 6 provides that the effect of a transfer order made under section 5 is to transfer the assets of the fund which is subject to the transfer order to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. It also provides that any trust deed relating to the assets of the fund is terminated and that the trustees and the bodies cease to be liable for anything done relating to the fund on or after the date of effect set out in the transfer order.

Section 7 provides for the continued operation of any pension scheme for which a transfer order has been made, subject to the provisions of the Bill. It also provides that, following the transfer, the board of directors or governing body of the State body or university in question becomes the administrators of the scheme. This section also makes provision for the continuation of scheme membership for those who were members on the date of transfer.

Section 8 provides an exemption from any form of taxation for any assets transferred under a transfer order.

Section 9 provides that a transfer order has effect notwithstanding any provision in the Pensions Act 1990. It also provides that, following the date of a transfer, the Pensions Act will continue to apply to a relevant scheme to the same extent as it did prior to that date, so that the protection of the Act will apply to members following the transfer, for example, the right to appeal in the event of a dispute.

Section 10 provides that assets transferred to the National Pensions Reserve Fund pursuant to a transfer order shall be taken to be in satisfaction or part-satisfaction of the obligation of the Minister for Finance under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 1990 to make contributions to that fund.

Section 11 provides that any discretion contained within a covered pension scheme in terms of rights and benefits of members, either individually or collectively, shall, after the making of the transfer order, be exercised by the relevant Minister and the Minister for Finance who in turn may delegate the exercise of the discretion.

Section 12 provides, subject to the provisions of this section, for the continuation of obligations of members and employers to make contributions to the scheme and for the bodies to pay benefits relating to the scheme in relation to any covered scheme after a transfer order has been made.

Section 13 provides that section 25(7) of the Universities Act 1997 and the Fifth Schedule to that Act, which provide for the approval of the terms and conditions of any university superan[460]nuation scheme, continue to apply to a covered pension scheme after a transfer order has been made.

Section 14 provides that nothing in Part 3 of the Bill or in any transfer order affects the jurisdiction of the Pensions Ombudsman or procedures relating to internal dispute resolution established under section 132 of the Pensions Act 1990. If a relevant pension scheme confers on a Minister the function of settling disputes, the relevant Minister continues to have that function after the making of a transfer order.

I will be bringing forward a Committee Stage amendment to provide for the inclusion of the pension funds of the Economic and Social Research Institute and the Institute of Public Administration in the scope of the Bill.

Part 4 deals with guarantees by Minister for Finance. Section 15 deals with the construction of certain provisions when the Minister for Finance guarantees non-equity securities and so on. It amends the Prospectus Directive Regulations 2005 and the Investment Funds, Companies and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2005 to protect the Exchequer by removing any legal liability on the State as guarantor of certain debt securities for the accuracy of information contained in prospectuses that relate to the guarantor and the guarantee.

Part 5 deals with the amendment of other legislation. Section 16 is an amendment required to give full effect to the transposition of the Assessment of Acquisitions in the Financial Sector Directive 2007. I recently signed the European Communities (Assessment of Acquisitions in the Financial Sector) Regulations 2009, SI 206 of 2009, which transpose that directive. It establishes a harmonised legal framework setting out the procedure to be applied by competent authorities when assessing acquisitions on prudential grounds in the EU/EEA.

Part II, Chapter VI of the Central Bank Act 1989 already provided a regime for acquiring transactions relating to holders of banking licences. The amendment in section 75(1) of the Central Bank Act 1989 disapplies the existing regime for acquisitions in the case where the regime created by SI 206 of 2009 now applies, thus ensuring that the directive is transposed correctly and that there is no dual acquisitions regime in the State.

Section 17 amends the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008. As Deputies will be aware Ireland was the first EU member state to make a guarantee available to its financial sector at the end of September 2008 last. As a result, in contrast to the position in other member states, the governing legislation and detailed scheme currently in place do not allow for guarantees to be provided for a period which would allow banks to access new longer-term funding which would make a significant contribution to further strengthening of their financial standing and stability overall. The House will understand as the term of the guarantee proceeds the importance of providing scope for extending the term of the guarantee increases so it is appropriate to provide scope for addressing the issue in this Bill. Section 17 therefore amends, via the Schedule to the Bill, the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008, to allow for the extension of the period of financial support beyond 29 September 2010 by ministerial order. Access to longer term funding is line with the recent mainstream approach in the EU will contribute significantly to supporting the funding needs of the banks and to securing their continued stability.

It is important to stress that the implementation of this provision include a number of important safeguards. First, in making an order to provide financial support on an extended basis the Minister must be satisfied, following consultation with Governor of the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, that the circumstances set out in section 2 of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 continue to apply.

[461]In addition, EU state aid approval is required for any financial support provided under the Act. Moreover, the Minister in making a scheme to provide financial support in the form of a guarantee must secure the positive approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with section 6(5) of the primary legislation.

Sections 18 and 19 deal with amendments to the insurance Acts. The Insurance (No. 2) Act was introduced in 1983 to enable the then Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism to present a petition to the court for an order for the administration of a non-life insurance company and the appointment of an administrator. As this option is not available for life insurance and reinsurance companies, the Financial Regulator asked for this regulatory gap to be addressed, which explains the necessity for this amendment.

Section 20 amends the Netting of Financial Contracts Act 1995 to insert a new definition of “party” in that Act. The purpose of this amendment is to clarify the application of that Act for netting agreements where one party to the agreement has created a security interest in favour of a third party. The Netting of Financial Contracts Act 1995 encompasses only bilateral netting agreements. However, the creation of a security interest by either party to a netting agreement could result in an interpretation that the agreement is between more than two parties. In such circumstances, the protections afforded by the Netting of Financial Contracts Act in the event of insolvency may not apply. This has the potential to cause significant difficulties for parties to netting agreements, including issues affecting the capital adequacy position of the parties, as well as impacting on the cost and viability of such transactions in the Irish market. The amended definition of “party” clarifies that it does not include any person in whose favour a security interest has been created.

Section 21 deals with amendments to the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. In the context of the transfer of the pension funds’ assets there are a number of amendments to the Taxes Consolidation Act in Schedule 2, Part 6. These amendments are technical in nature and clarify that the assets of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, in addition to the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, are also exempt from Irish tax.

As I have outlined, the issues addressed in this Bill largely relate to some important, albeit technical, issues. The Bill will also address a number of technical reforms to various Acts falling within my remit. I hope the Bill will be examined by the House in the time available in a positive and constructive way. I commend the Bill to the House.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I wish to share time with Deputy Kieran O’Donnell.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

  6 o’clock

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  While the Title of this Bill, Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, sounds very innocent, the Bill has quite large implications. I am very unhappy with the way in which the debate is being conducted. This is not the first time, in the course of the banking crisis, that we have seen both policy and legislation being introduced on the hoof, without the opportunity for proper debate. It is disconcerting. There has been an extension of the guarantee, recapitalisation and the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, and on each occasion amendments have not been reached, guillotines have been imposed and sections have not been debated. In time to come, when people reflect on how the Oireachtas oversaw its responsibility, they will be aghast that sections of legislation that had huge implications were simply never debated.

The Minister pleads urgency. Undoubtedly, urgency can be pleaded in these cases. However, there is an old adage to the effect that the urgent often squeezes out the important. That can happen here. Ministers come to the Chamber in a flurry saying a measure is very urgent. There [462]is a great rush but the important work of debate is not done. That is what we are here to do. We might be an inconvenient cog in the wheel that is not moving at the speed the Government would wish but we are elected to do that. It is our role.

There is a creeping sense of self-righteousness on the part of the Government and in the tone of its statements. It appears to be saying: “Here we are doing all these difficult things, and not one of you will give us an ounce of support.” I have also seen instances of deliberate misinterpretation of what the Opposition has said to promote the notion that the Opposition is irresponsible and misunderstanding of what is really happening. I get worried when I hear Ministers and Taoisigh pretending the Opposition does not understand instead of defending what they are putting forth. I have seen this happen repeatedly. Instead of the Government setting out the reasons for the guarantee, NAMA, the nationalisation and recapitalisation of Anglo Irish Bank and keeping it as a going concern, it attacks everybody else, as if all of us are Balubas trying to destroy our international reputation. That is a dangerous basis on which to have a debate, and there must be a proper debate about these issues. It might be a good political tactic but it is a short-term gain.

Today, we are being asked to extend the guarantee beyond September 2010. To be fair, the exchanges with the Taoiseach began to clarify what the intention is, which is not clear from any of the legislative material that has been presented to Members. The Taoiseach attempted to make it clear that what the Government was going to extend was very limited. There is no such limitation in any of the legislative material we have seen. He said that a review had come to the conclusion that this is needed. No Opposition Members have seen this review. I presume we will have to take it on faith that our betters have read it and have drawn these very wise conclusions, but the Oireachtas should have access to these reviews if they are so important.

There is no report on the existing scheme, for which we voted. Payments are being made and this has substantially increased the cost to the Exchequer of borrowing. We have not received a report, yet we are already obliged, for understandable reasons, to vote through an extension of it. There is no legislative guarantee that it will be confined to the instruments the Minister mentioned. There is no sunset clause to establish how long it could continue. Yes, the Dáil will have the opportunity to approve the scheme when it finally emerges but there appears to be a cat and mouse game involved in finding out when that will be. Will it be brought before the House before the summer recess, when we will be bounced into approving it, or will it be a more leisurely development and not launched until the autumn? At times the Taoiseach gives the impression that this is highly urgent and that there are opportunities in the market which we must rush out and seize, while at other times it all sounds very leisurely, with much drafting and consultation with the EU and others required before we will see the scheme. Which is it? It cannot be both. It cannot be a case of opportunities being whisked from under our noses in the absence of this legislation on the one hand, and then claiming there will be plenty of time to consult and all that is required is statutory approval.

This is a little like our children informing us they want to go to a concert and asking us for our credit card number and expiry date to book tickets. That happens, but one can tolerate it from one’s children. However, when a Minister comes to us seeking that type of arrangement, whereby we give him the credit card and he promises to return in a few months to tell us what he spent with it and what commitments he made that we will have to honour, that is worrying. There is an element of this——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  There are no commitments until the House approves the scheme.

[463]Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  That is all very well but the Minister can say: “We have now made these commitments and simply cannot go back on them.” We have no time to debate it now but when the Minister comes forward with the scheme he will tell us: “This is ready to go — AIB or Bank of Ireland have made huge commitments, they are ready to sign and the House must get this through.”

We have already seen this happen. We were told with the guarantee that there was a buffer for the taxpayer. However, very quickly after that we heard that AIB and even Anglo Irish Bank were to get €1.5 billion in recapitalisation. We had no role in deciding whether that was a good thing. Then we were told Anglo Irish Bank would be nationalised. That debate was curtailed and we did not get a chance to insert protections. Following that, we were told that Anglo Irish Bank had to be kept going as a going concern. It could not be nationalised on the basis of a wind down. We did not get the opportunity to have a proper debate on whether these were sound policies. That is frustrating.

With each sequence the Minister states that he is only looking for one thing, but he will already have made commitments. In the case of NAMA, for example, he will probably have made commitments before September that are simply irreversible. Technically, the Minister can say the Dáil is approving the matter but de facto he will have entered into such commitments and the train will be so far down the track that going back to the station to redesign the train will not be an option. The Minister will not accept amendments because the train will have long since left the station as far as he is concerned.

There is a legitimate role for this House but it is not getting a chance to exercise it. This is a type of smother tactic. If one questions it later on then one is guilty of sabotage. It is like the Government asking us to admire its work even as it wishes to re-design some element of it. We are told this is outrageous and are asked to imagine what will happen to our international standing, with people looking in at us who will think we are a banana republic. We are told the Oireachtas wants to having a say in designing how our very great amounts of money will be committed. I am very unhappy with the way this is going.

I can see the argument for a selective extension of the guarantee and I do not oppose that. However, I do not see anything about selectivity before us and cannot understand why we do not extend the powers under section 5. We are asking the taxpayer to extend our guarantee and take all this on the shoulders but the protections outlined in section 5, in which the Minister has powers to take action with the banks, will die in September 2010. Surely there is a quid pro quo. If the taxpayer is to be asked to carry the guarantee beyond the September date, surely we should be told there will be powers to match the responsibility we are being asked to take on board. However, there is no mention of extending section 5 and the admittedly extraordinary powers afforded to the Minister by that section. I believe we should extend a de-limited number of those powers beyond September 2010 in order to have a balance.

I welcome the Minister’s talk of changes in the regulatory system. I will not dwell on this because we are constrained by time. However, nobody believes that the reason our property bubble got out of hand was because the Central Bank and the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, were not talking to one another. That is the plainest poppycock I have ever heard. There was no problem with the Central Bank being able to talk to the IFSRA, or with both knowing what the other was doing. They had substantially the same, or interlocking, board members. The Governor of the Central Bank had the chance to say anything he liked and the opportunity under law to request any information he wanted from the IFSRA. He had absolute authority to get everything that was needed.

There is a notion that we need to re-design all these stables to the highest international standard but what really happened was that the stable door was left gaping open when the [464]horse galloped out. This was not a defect in the design of the stable though now we may say there were some defects in the design. The bodies were adequately supported and the design defects were consciously and knowingly pushed through this House by the Minister’s predecessor but one. It was not the design that went wrong. The theoretical criticism of that design was about merging consumer protection with prudential. The Central Bank, which had responsibility for systemic risk, had all the powers it needed to protect against systemic risk if it had been on the ball and doing its work. The truth was the horse bolted because that stable door was lying open and all we heard were a few powerless whimpers as the horse galloped out the door. That is the reality. To say that this is about best practice and is driven by the EU standards is misleading concerning what happened. We should, as other jurisdictions have, a White Paper on regulation prior to the implementation of the change but to cover people’s blushes, we are pushing ahead with the re-carving up of the institutions. However, that was not the problem. This is covering other people’s blushes — not, in this case, those of the Minister — and it is not a very satisfactory way to do it. We should take it more seriously.

The same can be said of the NAMA. I do not believe we have had anything like the level we should have of evaluation available to the House and to the general public in respect of a decision of such grave national importance.

I shall turn briefly to the issue of pension provisions. As Deputy Burton mentioned on the Order of Business, we are taking on our shoulders over €3.1 billion in liability versus assets of €1.75 billion. That is a substantial deficit to be taken on the shoulders of the taxpayer. Undoubtedly, the Minister will say there was an implicit commitment in this area and that, implicitly, the State was going to support the pensions of universities, and so on. We must examine the merchandise before we make a purchase of this nature. It is the most basic rule. One does one’s due diligence before one takes on such liability. It is now absolutely on our shoulders. Where is the actuaries’ audit of these pension funds? Deputy Ardagh, who would be far more qualified in this respect than I, will understand that one would expect some sort of report concerning what are the assets and the liabilities. What did the actuaries say to the trustees about what should be done to contain the deficit? Are the practices in these pension funds sound? Are there some crazy practices going on? We ought to have that sort of information before us before walking in to shoulder all these commitments.

I accept we must shoulder many of them but we should be vetting what are the practices and whether they are well-based. Are practices going on here that would not happen in other areas of the public service and in other areas of pension policy, practices we would not want to have carried into the public sector? We must look at that and have some reassurance.

Acting Chairman: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Does the Deputy intend to share his time?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Yes.

Acting Chairman: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Evenly?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I did not intend to share it evenly.

Acting Chairman: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  You are not that much of a socialist. That is okay.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I will be fair. To each according to his needs.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  From each according to his abilities.

Acting Chairman: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  We do not have much time, unfortunately.

[465]Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I will not hold up proceedings.

There is another element present. The moneys being taken in with the assets are being used to write off our contribution to the pension reserve fund. That is probably necessary in the present climate but there is no requirement on the Minister if this is to be repeated. We are setting a precedent whereby the Minister does not state what the sound principle is, namely, that assets of this nature should not diminish our commitment to providing pensions for the future. That would be the principle that would normally be espoused. One could say that at present it makes sense to deviate from that sound principle because otherwise we would have to go out into international markets to borrow. However, the Minister has not annunciated the sound principle in the legislation and subsequently stated there is a deviation. Presumably, this will be looked to in the future as the legislative precedent for other pensions. Undoubtedly, there will be other pensions involved because there are people such as regulators whose pension schemes, as far as I know, are not included here but who probably have the same expectation that the State will underpin their pension position. I do not know if that is the case. The Minister is looking in a puzzled way——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  In an alarmed way.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  However, I imagine this list does not include all those who might legitimately have the same expectations.

I will return to some of the other elements as we go through the Bill but because time is so constrained and others wish to speak I shall leave it at that.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  I wish to touch on some items within the Bill. The Government has guaranteed the extension of its own guarantee. In principle, there is nothing against that but it puts taxpayers’ money at risk for an extended period. In effect, the Minister will have to bring a scheme back to the House but it appears he is putting the cart before the horse. We will have no precise idea of what is in the scheme. Does the Minister have a date for the extension of the scheme? When will he give us an indication of that date? When will he bring the scheme before the House?

Regarding the pension scheme, it is an adjusting item for general Government balance that has not been paid for by the State but effectively comes from the pension funds of other semi-State bodies. The Minister is putting it forward as an adjusting item but I believe it should have been left as a non-adjusting item because it reduces the general Government balance although it is not a payment from the Minister’s good self on behalf of the taxpayer. Was any form of due diligence carried out by the Department prior to taking over the pension funds? Was any proper actuarial valuation carried out on the assets and liabilities? I understand that the former amount to approximately €1.75 billion and that the latter amount to approximately €3.1 billion. On what was the valuation carried out and is it up to date? That the deficit is approximately €1.35 billion should be taken on board.

The asset value of €1.75 billion is reflected in the Minister’s contribution to the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF, and is an adjusting item in terms of reducing the general government balance, but the liability of €3.1 billion is not being reflected anywhere. In normal business, one would be required to reflect this liability.

Part 3 of Schedule 2 amends the Insurance (No. 2) Act 1983 to “enable the Financial Regulator to present a petition to the High Court for the administration of a life insurance or reinsurance undertaking and the appointment of an administrator where it considers that the business of the insurer-reinsurer is being or has been conducted in such a way that inadequate provision has been made for its debts including contingent and prospective liabilities”. Is there [466]a specific reason for including this amendment in the Financial Measures (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill less than two weeks prior to the Dáil getting up? I assume that the Dáil will sit until 9 July. We are not having a real debate, as Second Stage will be guillotined in just over 30 minutes. Given the possible implications for the Exchequer and the taxpayer in terms of life insurance companies——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  No such significance attaches to this section. I made it clear when introducing the Bill that the regulator suggested that this be done to provide comprehensive protection. The Deputy should not release that statement.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  The Minister owes the House a more elaborate explanation, particularly——

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  We have some large life insurance——

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  ——on what details he has received from the Financial Regulator.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I will happily assist the Deputy in that regard.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  The Bill is deemed to be a miscellaneous provisions Bill despite many of its provisions, for example, the implications to the taxpayer of pensions in third level institutions and the manner in which they are being accounted for in the general government balance, the extension of the guarantee scheme, when it will come forward, why it is not being debated prior to the extended date, the reasons for its extension and the various funds to which it is being extended, and the Financial Regulator’s issue concerning the administration of life insurance companies.

Fine Gael supported the guarantee when it was given in September. The Minister will agree that we are looking for a vibrant banking system that will be able to operate independently. In terms of the guarantee, he has referred to how EU countries are moving ahead of us. For what reason and for how long does he expect the guarantee’s necessity? The scheme has implications for NAMA, since nothing stands in isolation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  With the Acting Chairman’s permission, I propose to share time with Deputies Pat Rabbitte and Arthur Morgan. Will she tell me when eight or nine minutes are remaining?

Acting Chairman: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I move amendment No. 1:

It is nine months since the fateful night of 29 September when the bank guarantee was hatched to save Anglo Irish Bank on the eve of its financial year end. What promises we heard from the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that day about new capital flows into the banks and, through them, into the economy as a whole. It is fair to ask what the experience of the past nine months has been, a period during which the Minister repeatedly declared that the banking [467]crisis had been contained and offered a series of still unsuccessful fixes. What justifies the belief that he knows what he is doing? He is making it up as he goes along and tonight’s Bill is just the latest instalment.

The Minister is demanding near dictatorial authority and even immunity from review and scrutiny. On his record, he does not deserve such power and immunity. The flows of new credit to business have never occurred and the banking crisis has worsened. A professional stopped me in the street and asked me to ask the Minister whether he knows that, by September, only a few professionals will still be employing people because the situation has grown so bad.

The multi-billion euro recapitalisation has come and gone and been digested by the banks without the slightest hiccup. The flow of credit remains as elusive as ever. NAMA is the new panacea to achieve what the guarantee failed to deliver. Now, the Minister wants another prop to cover up the dismal failure of his original efforts nine months ago. He wants to assume a stunning new power to decide on extensions to the guarantee. In effect, he wants to rule by decree as if he were a new Napoleon. Why this and why now? Is it because the Minister and the Taoiseach do not expect to be in office when the September 2008 guarantee expires in September 2010? Is it that they want to impose the burden of the Minister’s failed policies on his successor? Perhaps their cronies and political clients in the banks and among the developers want to have this extra lock on policy——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  That is outrageous. It is not true at all.

Deputy Seán Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  It is scurrilous.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——in the aftermath of a Fianna Fáil defeat and are getting their demand in now lest this Government slip up soon.

This morning’s Irish Independent reported the case of a developer being taken to court by a financial institution covered by the guarantee scheme. Unnamed sources criticised the court action as being unwise and not what had been expected. The Minister’s colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, appeared on an episode of “Questions and Answers” approximately one month ago and claimed that even developers’ family homes would be taken. The Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, should read today’s newspaper for the unattributed comments——

Deputy Seán Ardagh: Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  That does not excuse the Deputy using a word like “cronies”. She should withdraw it.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——from, presumably, the Department of Finance.

For the Dáil to award these sweeping powers to a Minister is an abdication of responsibility. For Government Deputies to agree so casually to this Bill would be a shocking dereliction of duty. The Dáil has a sacred duty to scrutinise the exercise of power by Ministers. This Bill abandons that duty and enables the Minister to exercise power without due accountability. The Bill should be opposed in principle. The core value that is entirely absent here today is transparency.

We only got the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on Anglo Irish Bank because that bank imploded under the weight of its persistent malpractice and had to be nationalised. We have still not received a full review of Bank of Ireland, AIB or the Irish Nationwide Building Society. How then can this House, in the absence of full information, so readily abandon its duty and transfer so much power to one Minister with no restrictions on the exercise of that power and not demand that he provide the Dáil and the taxpaying public with sufficient evidential basis for the decisions he makes in the exercise of those powers? This Bill will result in liabilities for [468]the taxpayer of tens of billions over a period of time less than five years, depending on whatever date the Minister deems the Paris agreement originated, yet there is not as much as a figure in the Bill. I will refer to the pension liabilities and the pension assets taken over. It is truly stunning to have such a Bill, the financial implications of which will affect not only this generation of taxpayers, but taxpayers for another 20 years.

Believe it or not, Mr. Enron over on the Government side does not even have a financial figure to offer us. That is absolutely outrageous. How can we so casually agree to the Bill without guarantees of accountability? I do not trust the Minister’s party on this matter. It has been and remains the silent spider at the centre of a conspiratorial web of dodgy property deals and corrupt rezoning. How could it be trusted? That party is simply too closely wedded to vested interests in the property sector to enjoy the trust of the people in this sensitive matter. Why the extra layer of guarantee at this point? First, we had the 29 September guarantee, time-limited for two years. Then we had NAMA, the mechanism to transfer dodgy loans to the State at excessive prices. Now we have a proposal to abolish the two-year time limit and replace it with ministerial powers to extend the time. In effect, it is a triple layer of State protection for the banks.

If NAMA gets up and running in the coming year — we understand it is to be up and running sometime in September — surely the banks will have their worst performing loans transferred by September 2010? Why would they then need an additional extension of the guarantee? The Minister has told us NAMA will work, that it will take the dodgy loans and clean up the banks’ balance sheet, yet the banks’ balance sheets having been cleaned up, we are now offering another guarantee for up to five years. We do not even have a date. In fact, in the Schedule, the additional guarantee period is unlimited and undated. This is an extra cocoon of Lenihan insulation from the cold winds of the market for our wretched banks.

I thought capitalism’s great virtue was the value it placed on market disciplines. If one invested and took risk, then one was entitled to the rewards of success with modest taxation. If one lost and one’s investment failed, then tough luck. Try again. No lame ducks. No sore losers. Why are the banks now exempt from all those rules? They are now lame ducks kept alive solely because of the guarantee and the prospect of NAMA taking on their soured loans. Are they not sore losers? Look at them, still in total denial of the wreckage they have created in businesses, families and people with jobs and employment around the country.

The Minister is a distinguished senior counsel. He knows what double jeopardy means. What we have tonight is double jeopardy in reverse. It is double indemnity for the banks. In fact, it is triple indemnity for them. Indemnity No. 1 is the first guarantee. It has not worked so the banks want another fix. Indemnity No. 2 is NAMA, the magic wand that will draw the poison of bad loans away from the balance sheets. Now the Minister has gone one step further with this new power to extend the guarantee for a further undefined period that I understand is to be up to five years. The banks are to be saved and now they are to be cocooned by three layers of Lenihan insulation.

Does moral hazard have any place in this Minister’s universe? Moral hazard arises because an institution does not have to suffer the full consequences and responsibilities of its actions. This weekend at Farmleigh the Minister appears to have thrown the avoidance of moral hazard out the window as a guiding principle of policy in the case of all commercial banks. Their debts, no matter how dodgy and how recklessly accumulated, will now, in effect, be the sovereign debts of the State according to the Lenihan Farmleigh doctrine. According to The Irish Times, the Government press office did not circulate any speech from the event in Farmleigh, whatever it was. Nor it is on the Department’s website. I wonder why. Is it because it contains some [469]extremely important statements? What did the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, say at this dinner? One sentence stands out in the report.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I am sorry, Deputy, it was not a dinner. It was a conference of economists.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Whatever the event was — let us call it a tea party. There were tea cups and coffee. The Minister stated: “Governments have to prevent banks failing and stabilise them.” There one has it — no caveats, no exceptions. Every bank is of systemic importance. None can be allowed to fail. In a nutshell, that is the new Fianna Fáil ideology. Children can be allowed to die or to live lives of dreadful suffering because of health cuts. Children can be educated in super-sized classes with little regard for their well-being, but no bank can be allowed to fail, whatever the cost to our country. Any speculative bondholder who risks his or her money in an Irish bank will be allowed the profit when things go well, but none can be asked to take a hit if things go wrong.

The private debt of Irish banks ranks equally to the public debt of the sovereign State. The taxpayer has to pay always. Does the Minister remember Seánie FitzPatrick? He gets to keep his mega pension pot no matter what happens. The banks are to be free commercially but if anything goes wrong then Ireland, as a sovereign State, will offer not one, not two, but three and maybe more layers of guarantee and insulation, as required, at whatever cost to protect them. Moral hazard is the standard rule of capitalism that decrees that one has to bear some responsibility for one’s actions but the Minister has decided to set that aside.

I wish to quote from one university economist speaking about the Minister. Mr. Gregory Connor from NUI Maynooth stated: “Our current Irish Finance Minister is not competent for the job and his statements have no logical consistency. Trying to interpret his statements in terms of a logically consistent perspective on the current market environment is an exercise in futility.” That pretty much sums it up. We are being railroaded by the Bill.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Did Deputy Burton get that off an Internet search?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No. I hope the Minister gets around to reading what some of the economists have to say. That is a mild comment compared to some of the analyses on the various websites.

I wish to refer to the transfer of the pension liabilities. The Minister should listen to me for a moment. Deputy Ardagh is sitting behind the Minister and he has some sensible questions to ask about the Bill. We are taking over liabilities. I thank the Department for the list of liabilities I received. It took a lot of persuasion to get it. I understand the Minister had the list until approximately lunch time. He could not decide whether to release the pages to me. The sum of €3 billion is listed on the liabilities. Currently, the National Pensions Reserve Fund does not stand much above €15 billion, depending on what the current valuation is, because it has fallen a lot. Those liabilities are one fifth of the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Before the emergency budget and last year, moving those assets on was considered a smart move because the assets can be taken into the State assets to improve the financial situation somewhat. However, it is absolutely ridiculous to have that happening with no attempt at analysis. A reasonable question can be asked. FÁS has €328 million of pension assets and €683 million of pension liabilities. Some of the institutions listed have a much lower liability. In other words, their deficits are not nearly as big. The liability of two other institutions — Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland — is less than 50% funded. This is a very important issue concerning the financial responsibilities and liabilities of this country and in itself is deserving of detailed and serious discussion. We need to know why this happened. [470] Although funds suffer from the general downfall in the markets, as a national parliament we are entitled to ask, and are simply responsible for asking, questions about what has occurred. What the Minister is doing may well be very worthwhile and I am sure the staff in the various universities and public bodies will be delighted, but we must ask how we reached this point. Who was asleep on the job such that pension liabilities were allowed to become so under-funded? It is absolutely stunning.

With regard to other elements of the legislation, I do not have enough experience of the insurance market to know why the Financial Regulator now wants to introduce regulations dealing with the appointment of an administrator in the case of a life insurance business. We do not have too many life assurance companies in this country. This measure did not come out of nowhere. The Minister states the provision has no particular purpose but it is legitimate to ask what are the various life insurance companies in the State, their current liability and whether the Minister has been advised of the picture in respect thereof. The measure provides a mechanism of redress should one or more of the companies get into difficulty.

I note changes proposed in respect of the liability of the Financial Regulator in regard to prospectuses. Why is this the case? The Financial Regulator carries an advertisement on every financial product stating it is registered with or licensed by the Financial Regulator. Why does the Minister seem to be resiling from this? My question is legitimate and the House should be given the opportunity to address it in a longer debate.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I thank Deputy Burton for sharing her time.

I want to consider Part 2 of Schedule 2, which amends the Act we passed last September and, as I understand it, permits the Minister, by order, to continue the banks’ guarantee essentially for as long as he sees fit. I have heard Deputy Bruton refer to selective extensions only and to the Taoiseach’s qualification of this on the Order of Business or during Leaders’ Questions. I would like to hear the Minister explain how the extensions are qualified and limited because it seems that so long as he is of the opinion that it is in the public interest that such assistance be continued and that circumstances warrant his doing so, he can make orders indefinitely.

This is such a major matter that I do not believe any greater one will come before the House unless some nation declares war on us. We believed some €440 billion in liabilities was guaranteed until 29 September 2010 but the Minister is now taking power unto himself, and by order, to extend this period when and if he sees fit. The criteria laid down in section 6(3A) and so forth are not really very onerous. Given how we interpreted the legislation so far, we can predict the Minister will extend the timeframe.

The Taoiseach made a reasonable point today when he said there are borrowing opportunities in the marketplace of which he would not be able to take advantage were the date restricted to 29 September 2010. However, the blanket power is excessive. The least one can say is that this House ought to have been given the opportunity to scrutinise the Bill at leisure and hear the Minister’s arguments. We are not being given that opportunity.

I do not claim to have the knowledge of Deputies Burton and Bruton on this measure and have quite a heavy legislative burden of my own as part of my spokesmanship, but I am one of a number of Deputies who believe we are taking a momentous decision that will affect future generations. The Deputies would like to believe they could be reasonably assured, following debate in the Oireachtas, that they are going broadly in the right direction and have discharged their duty. We cannot discharge our duty in the time provided or in the manner proposed, regardless of whatever excuse will be presented on 29 September 2010.

[471]While it is very easy to talk on the Opposition side of the House, I understand the dilemma that may well have arisen on that fateful night when the two chief executives told the Minister for Finance and Taoiseach the house of cards was to come down in the morning and that the banking system would collapse if it were not guaranteed. It is like the case of a bomb disposal expert faced with cutting a red or blue wire in the knowledge that making the incorrect decision will have disastrous consequences. I understand this but cannot understand today, on 23 June 2009, the pressure not to permit the House to scrutinise this legislation Stage by Stage, as was intended when the legislative process was put in place. I worry about this enormously.

As Deputy Burton stated, we saw a piece of the jigsaw last week and are to see another next week and we do not know when we will see the National Asset Management Agency Bill. I am told there are developers working feverishly at present to strip out the not-so-risky bad loans and place them with institutions whose headquarters are outside the State and not covered for the purposes of this legislation, such that by the time the National Asset Management Agency becomes operable, we will be left with the more long-term liabilities or useless or less valuable assets.

There are so many questions one would like the opportunity to raise. Deputies Burton and Bruton both dealt with the regulatory system. I cannot get my head around how one originally small bank, Anglo Irish Bank, was permitted to blow the bubble so large that the entire banking system was put at risk. Nobody shouted “Stop”. As Deputy Burton fairly stated, it does not matter how often the bank returns for recapitalisation, the guarantee will leave us with no choice but to pony up.

I missed the Minister’s introductory remarks because I had to go out to the gate to meet a woman who, in 2001, had to remortgage her house to get €25,000 to meet a pressing family need. She went to the Bank of Ireland yesterday to pay off the loan. She has been paying in the intervening years at a fixed rate. The bank wanted €58,000 to discharge the loan.

She had raised the €58,000 and went to hand it in to the Bank of Ireland which asked for a €12,000 break-out fee on top of the €58,000. That is what the average punter is experiencing. For all of the recapitalisation we have no protocol with the banks which can exert that kind of pressure.

In the minute remaining to me I want to underwrite Deputy Burton’s comments on the pensions issue. I, too, am delighted for the staff of the universities and FÁS. If one travels a lot one needs pension reassurance. What about all the people in the private sector who are experiencing problems with defined benefit pension schemes and so on, yet at the flip of a coin we take on this responsibility? It is all very well for Deputy Burton to say that it was an addition to the balance sheet on that side but what about the liabilities that come with it? It is mind-blowing. The assets in the FÁS scheme are €328 million. I do not know what scrutiny they have undergone by way of audit of individual schemes and so on. The liabilities are €683 million. That measure of the pension transfer alone would warrant the kind of debate that we are having here until 11 p.m. tonight, never mind the bigger issues in the Bill.

Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I thank the Labour Party for sharing time with me. In the brief time available to me I must confine my comments to the crucial part of the Bill, the section enabling the Minister to extend the bank guarantee scheme on a whim, which makes the State liable for almost all of the toxic debts in our financial institutions. I wonder why the Minister has decided to delegate this power to himself. Why can we not have a proper debate on a scheme which could end up literally bankrupting the State? I would not give these powers to a Minister for Finance from my own party much less to a Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance irrespective of who the Minister was — in fact, I certainly would not give it to a Fianna Fáil Minister.

[472]What the Minister proposes to do disenfranchises this House. It takes away an opportunity for us to have a proper debate and gives him dangerously sweeping powers. The Minister is advised by an Attorney General who might be of the view that this legislation is within the principles laid down in Cityview Press v. AnCO and is not repugnant to the Constitution. This is, of course, the same Attorney General who thinks we cannot impose a pay cut on the Judiciary despite the view of numerous legal commentators who think that we can. That is a bluff. The intent is to ensure that a judge is not penalised because of a decision that he or she made and is nothing to do with what is intended here, which is to protect the public finances.

The extension of the guarantee means extending the public’s liability for toxic debts created by the fat cats and the speculator friends of the Fianna Fáil Party in particular. We will end up guaranteeing more debts and cementing our liability to pre-existing debts. That is completely unacceptable as people outside the House are saying. Whatever about the reasons given at the time, the banking guarantee scheme has failed to provide any stability and the only thing it has done is expose people to debts they did not create which could result in the State’s being bankrupt. The Minister does not have a mandate to bankrupt the State. He does not have the right to use public money in any way he deems fit and he does not have the right to decide what is in the public interest without proper debate in this House.

Over the past eight years his Government thought it was in the public interest to allow the property bubble to get out of control and to ignore the warnings that we were too reliant on the construction industry for employment and for failing to ensure adequate tax revenue. His Government knows nothing about the public interest. Why does this sweeping power need to be passed on to the Minister when there is a sunlight clause in the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act which allows for him to extend the scheme upon a resolution of the House? The very least that would require would be that the Minister would introduce a resolution in the House that we would debate and on which we would vote.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  That is provided for.

Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  That is what I am saying. Why does the Minister need to go beyond that? Surely that is sufficient to bring a resolution to the House to extend the scheme rather than a ministerial order.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I cannot do that under existing legislation.

Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I am told the Minister can.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The Deputy might help me.

Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  I look forward to his reply to that point.

We were misled about the guarantee scheme in the original legislation. We were told that proper terms and conditions would be brought in that would bring the banks to account. No such terms and conditions were brought in. Poor Seánie has gone off and has to survive on the mere €83 million that he borrowed and whatever other bits and pieces he brought with him. There is also the debacle of Anglo Irish Bank.

Students will examine this period of their financial history with great interest and will come to some very enlightening decisions on Anglo Irish Bank.

Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I will try to deal with the points raised by Deputies in so far as I can. I thank them for their contributions to a very brief debate.

[473]Deputy Bruton suggested that I was accusing the Opposition of irresponsibility. I am not accusing him of irresponsibility in respect of this legislation. All the Deputies mentioned the guarantee. The current legislation provides for the guarantee to end at the end of September 2010. That creates significant problems for the medium-term funding of Irish banks in terms of the senior debt they can acquire. This is not debt to be advanced to them on a speculative or hazardous basis but the routine funding requirements of the banks. That difficulty has arisen because other European countries have also explicitly or implicitly guaranteed their banks.

  7 o’clock

Deputy Burton dramatises the night of 29 September in many of her public contributions but every European country has now explicitly or implicitly guaranteed its financial institutions. The terms of those guarantees in many other European countries have enabled guarantees to be given to the banks beyond our expiry period of September 2010. It is important that our banks be put on an equal playing field with other banks. That is the purpose of taking this power. It cannot be exercised without positive approval in this House. There is no question of entering a commitment of any kind before there is positive approval in this House. There is no question either, as some Deputies suggested casually, of underwriting existing borrowings by the financial institutions.

If the Commission approves a proposal from the Irish Government and if it is brought to this House, the terms of that proposal will apply to debt issues subsequent to the adoption of the proposal by this House. We will have plenty of opportunity to discuss this matter in the event that the EU Commission approves of the approach the Government is taking. Therefore, the scope of the power is not unlimited. It is limited by the essential and positive approval of this House.

I was glad to see an amount of critical comment in the newspapers about the announcement in respect of the Central Bank and IFSRA because it is not at the heart of the regulatory reform.

At the heart of that reform, as I announced in the budget, is the need to ensure that whoever heads up the regulator commands total confidence and produces a radical change of culture in the operation of banking regulation in this country. To recruit the new regulator we have engaged Sir Andrew Large, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, to preside over the recruitment process.

To produce a regulator one must have a job specification. Therefore, I brought proposals to the Government to provide for certain essential changes required in the legislation so we know exactly, in terms of appointing a candidate as regulator, what is the job specification. I did not bring forward those proposals as a final solution to the problems of our regulatory system and many commentators made the point that tinkering around with the regulatory system would not resolve our problems. I agree but, at the same time, when one is in the process of recruiting a regulator it is important to set out the legislative framework into which that person will be slotted.

Deputy Bruton raised the question of university pensions and the fact that we are shouldering commitments. I can confirm that the State was effectively liable for the liabilities of the pension funds being transferred and, as such, they do not constitute an additional liability. This important point was also raised by Deputies Burton and Rabbitte and we are already shouldering these commitments. With regard to the question of auditing what we will receive, I assure Deputies that a full actuarial assessment was made at my Department on the various securities and interests that will be transferred. Deputy Burton met my officials last Friday and I regret that she was not able to see the final calculations she had wanted until lunchtime today.

[474]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No, I heard you released them at lunchtime.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  My officials were not able to contact me this morning because I was at a Government meeting and that is why there was a delay in informing Deputy Burton of these matters. It is not fair either to me or my officials to hold us to blame for that. As soon as they could contact me they asked me if I wished the information to be released and I stated to do so immediately. There is no question of trying to conceal information from Deputy Burton.

With regard to the life insurance companies, there is no significance to this other than that the regulator rightly believed that there should be comprehensive machinery available to the Oireachtas in this matter were any difficulties to arise. There is no suggestion that any difficulties have arisen in this regard. A number of other points were made but I have covered the main points of substance made by Deputies and I will try to assist them as much as I can on Committee Stage also.

Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the main question.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 60.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John. Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary.
Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán. Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire.
Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh.
Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie. Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward. Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary.
Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  

Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James. Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I declare the Bill read a Second Time in accordance with Standing Order 121(2)(i).

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