That Dáil Éireann, pursuant to Standing Order 128(1) of Standing Orders Relative to Public Business, directs that the remaining sections of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Bill 2003, and all amendments thereto, be recommitted to a committee of the whole House.
In recent days we have heard an extraordinary number of additional revelations regarding what has been going on in parts of our banking sector, which is much valued for its contribution to the economy and for the employment it generates and which has large sections of the pension funds of Irish workers under its care.
The Minister has introduced a number of amendments on Report Stage which significantly water down the sanction and penalty procedures of the Bill. In particular, it now appears that large elements of the sanctions regime is at the discretion of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, so that once again there will be behind the doors discussions in which the guilty may get away with no more than a slap on the wrist. The Minister of State has spoken about fines and potential disbarment but the Minister's Report Stage amendments would allow much of the structure of disciplinary action and sanctions to be discretionary rather than mandatory.
The primary role of the Central Bank is prudential. It is to safeguard the standing of our banks. It is not primarily an advocate for the interests of bank customers. It is there to protect the banking organisations. This means that when a scandal happens in a bank, rather than having a full and open discussion and an attempt to clear up the matter, the closed culture among the golden circle who run our banks and financial institutions comes into play. Many of the members of this golden circle sit on each others boards. As a consequence, public debate is stifled. The public has no confidence that the issues involved will be addressed, and there is a long-term serious risk to the viability of our banking industry.
The Minister's amendments were rushed. IFSRA is carrying out an important inquiry into the foreign exchange charges of Allied Irish Bank in the past ten years. We now know that IFSRA has been involved with AIB since last September in an inquiry into a company called Faldor in the British Virgin Islands and the actions of ten former and current executives and directors of AIB. As a result of the Minister's amendments, which allow get-outs, let-outs and back doors for the banking industry, being introduced on Report Stage, we are rushing through the legislation without due consideration by the Dáil. It was bad enough that, last week, the Opposition's motion to recommit amendments tabled on Report Stage was not accepted by the Government. After what we heard last weekend, it will be a disgrace for the Government to fail to recommit the Bill.
We need to hear from IFSRA what went wrong in Allied Irish Banks and whether or not the problem exists in other banks. The Governor of the Central Bank stated today that, until recently, an important area of the operations of banks, including AIBIM, was unregulated. For all of these reasons, I ask the Dáil to accept the Labour Party's motion to recommit the Bill, in the interest of a proper discussion and evaluation of the various disclosures made last weekend.
Today, the chairman of Allied Irish Banks refused to appear before the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service until the IFSRA investigation is complete and the bank has had time to consider it. Despite this, the Government is railroading this legislation through the Oireachtas and giving no opportunity to consider whether the watering down of the procedures of IFSRA by the Report Stage amendments introduced by the Minister at such a late stage should be proceeded with. I speak in the interests of the customers of the banking system, of the 50,000 employees of the financial services industry and of the long-term viability of the sector. This is in all of our interests.