I regret that for a variety of internal reasons within the relevant Department, with which the Deputy may be familiar, progress on this Bill has not been as satisfactory as we would like. I am assured, however, that a final draft is nearly ready and I think I am correct in quoting the Taoiseach as saying that it will be published either immediately before Christmas or very soon afterwards.
That Bill will, inter alia, give to the credit union movement powers to do things it is currently prevented from doing. That is one of the reasons we want to provide for the credit union movement within the framework of an overall third banking force. Another factor since this idea was first promoted is the computerisation of the existing 600 post office branches, with a further 529 branches to be computerised, which provide electronic money services, household budgeting and other services that are essential for a section of the community who in the past have been victims of moneylending and have not had the resources to defend themselves. The intention is to provide access to a range of services they can afford.
It is not a million years since State employees, officials in the Office of Public Works, were refused permission to cash their cheques in mainstream banks a couple of hundred metres from their place of work in Lad Lane. In order to avoid that kind of monetary apartheid we want to introduce a system that will, with the use of new technology, which is moving at an incredible pace, enable everybody in society to participate equally. In introducing such a system consideration will be given to the necessary additional changes the credit union movement will need on top of those it sought when the Bill was first proposed.
I was responsible for this matter for two years and I regret, as does the present Minister in that Department, the slowness of progress with the legislation, but notwithstanding the internal problems we are now in a position to bring forward the Bill, publication and design of which have nothing to do with any extraneous factors to which the Deputy referred.