Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Government and the Troika have opened discussions on how best the Irish banking system and the State can benefit from having further improvements to certain elements of the banking sector. The overall objective of such discussions is to enhance the position of the banks in which the State now has a major investment. A number of approaches are under consideration but it must be emphasised that, at this point, nothing has been agreed or decided.
Regarding the more general mortgage issue, the approach of the Government has been clear. The capital provided by the taxpayer to the domestic banks is to cover unavoidable losses and to ensure that those banks continue to meet their regulatory requirements. Mortgage holders, and other borrowers, who can meet their loan commitments must continue do so and a blanket approach to debt relief, either in respect of negative equity or otherwise, is not an appropriate or affordable approach. Instead, in line with the recommendations of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Mortgage Arrears, the Government’s approach is to formulate and implement measures that will provide appropriate assistance to those mortgage holders who are experiencing real and genuine difficulty in meeting their commitments.
Measures such as the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears, mortgage interest supplement, mortgage interest relief are already in place to assist mortgage holders and more advanced measures to assist those mortgage holders who are experiencing the most difficulty, such as personal insolvency reform, the social housing “mortgage to rent” initiative, Central Bank engagement with banks to ensure that banks provide realistic, appropriate and sustainable options to their customers and the provision of a mortgage advisory function are now also being advanced. As the Deputy is aware, a temporary Government committee, chaired by An Taoiseach, is now overseeing the implementation, on a cross-departmental basis, of the Government’s overall response to the mortgage arrears problem.
92. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the steps he will take to use his stake in the AIB to prevent the bank from introducing their proposed changes which require customers to hold a balance of €2,500 in their current accounts; his views on the fact that these measures will cause undue hardship for customers of the bank and will withdraw money from the local economies and have devastating consequences for local jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17036/12]
Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): The Bank’s policy in relation to fees is a matter for the management and board of the institution. I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of the banks, which include these matters. These decisions are taken by the board and management of the institution. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in the institution, the bank should be run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure the value of the bank as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. The Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing in the current environment. However, we have observed that free banking offerings have changed significantly in recent times across the industry and that the bank must remain competitive in order to return to profitability and viability. I am informed that AIB considers its proposal to be competitive and in line with the market.
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