Tuesday, 4 March 2014

I compliment Deputy Michael McGrath on bringing forward this legislation. In the context of the debate in the last couple of weeks on the loan books of the former IBRC, a good strong debate on this is welcome. As the Minister said earlier, little did we realise that when banks were issuing bonds to generate capital so they could lend on further, these bonds were secured on mortgages. One often wonders, had we been forced to burn those senior bond holders, as we were asked to do, what the consequences would have been for the holders of the mortgages against which those bonds were secured. It would have been interesting to have found that out.

It was interesting that Deputy Troy mentioned that there will be no regulation on these loan books that have been sold on. Had there been proper regulation by the Fianna Fáil led Government at the height of the Celtic tiger we might not be dealing with this issue now. That is a sad reflection on what was happening at the time. Regulators were in place who were not regulating.

We are having a debate now regarding a situation where there is no regulator in place, yet according to the Minister, there is adequate cover for those mortgage holders who are concerned about their loans which are being passed on to an entity with which they are not familiar.

This brings me to the main issue, namely trust. The problem is that because the banking system has been so impaired, the public and mortgage holders have a complete lack of trust in the banks, regulation within the Central Bank and the Government. The sad thing is that this stems from previous Administrations. It is taking us a long time to try to rebuild that trust, so that the public and mortgage holders can feel safe in trusting that what we tell them is the truth.

I understand the legislation is on the legislative programme for 2015, but if something happens in the meantime and we find out that one of the agencies that has purchased some of the loan books is not complying with the Central Bank’s code of conduct, will it be possible to bring forward the legislation speedily so that we can ensure those mortgage holders have security? Another concern relates to an issue people have contacted me about. They are concerned there may be an increase in the interest rates for these mortgage holders. The entities that have purchased the loan books have done so in order to make money. They may have bought them at a discount price and some of the loans may never be repaid, but that is part of the risk they take. The concern is that individuals with mortgages will see an increase in the interest rate they pay. It would be good to get some clarification in this debate on the strength of the code of conduct put in place by the Central Bank on this. I welcome the fact that all of the purchasers of the loan books have agreed to this, but we must remain vigilant in that regard.

I welcome this debate and support the thrust of the legislation introduced by Deputy McGrath, but we need to strengthen it further. The Bill makes no provision for the imposition of penalties if there is a failure to comply with the code of conduct or with the Financial Regulator. It needs strengthening. I look forward to the legislation to be brought forward by the Minister in 2015.