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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010

Vol. 705 No. 4

Order of Business.

It is proposed to take No. 1, Finance Bill 2010 — Recommendation from the Seanad, and No. a8, motion re stability of the banking system. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. tonight and business shall be interrupted not later than 10 p.m. The proceedings in respect of No. a8 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10 p.m. tonight and the following arrangements shall apply: the opening speech of the Minister for Finance shall not exceed 45 minutes, the opening speech of spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, shall not exceed 40 minutes in each case, the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.

Private Members' business, which shall be No. 72 — motion re special educational needs, shall be taken tomorrow at 5.30 p.m. and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after three hours on that day. Parliamentary Questions next for answer by the Taoiseach on EU matters shall be taken on the same day as the statements on EU Council meeting, Brussels, scheduled to be taken on Wednesday, 31 March, and shall be moved to be taken first as ordinary Oral Questions to the Taoiseach on that day.

There are four proposals to be put to the House today. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 1 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2, motion re stability of the banking system, agreed to?

I have a question I wish to ask the Taoiseach. My understanding was that when the arrangements were originally being made for the proposal that there would be statements on banking today it was intended that there would be an opportunity to put questions to the Minister for Finance for reply. The original proposal was that this would take place before the end of the debate. Then the Government decided to introduce a motion congratulating itself at the end of that debate and that matter must now be dealt with. My understanding is there is an arrangement for questions on the banking situation later in the week. Will the Taoiseach clarify those arrangements?

I refer to the issue about to be taken now. It was suggested that some Members might prefer a substantive motion rather than statements and we are accommodating this. If Members wish to have some part of Thursday devoted to further statements on the matter I would be glad to try to arrange it through the Whips. The possibility of a question and answer session at the end of the statements is fine but because of the market-sensitive nature of this issue we must vote tonight such that people will know a decision has been taken and is effective. While powers are already vested in the existing legislation and the initial request from the Opposition was for a statement to be brought to the House on the occasion of decisions taken by Government in this regard, the Government is trying to accommodate other views in terms of tabling a motion rather than simply making statements. Further, we are prepared to arrange a couple of hours for a debate on the statements, perhaps on Thursday, and to finalise this with 20 minutes or whatever of questions and answers to the Minister as a means of concluding the debate. That would be an offer we could make in an effort to get on with the business.

Under the legislation passed by the House, the Minister for Finance has very extensive powers in regard to these matters. The House is expected to do some business in regard to these phenomenal sums of money in a manner couched in financial language, which many people will have difficulty in comprehending. Is it intended that the Minister for Finance or other Government speakers would set out the other options considered by the Government and Anglo Irish Bank in regard to its future?

Will anyone in Government refer to the impact of putting the same resources into a jobs stimulus to deal with real, crucial infrastructure, for example, in water, broadband or renewables? Is there a proposition that the Government spell out proposed watertight lending facilities for small business and SMEs? Is there to be any detail provided by the Government for the distressed mortgage payers who, sadly, are to have a further €27,000 lumped on them by this proposal?

If we are to hold a rational discussion about something this critical, the impact of which will last for years, then the House should be able to do its duty. If the people are expected to invest in these banks then we should be able to see the plan and the figures that demonstrate, from a Government perspective, how that will be paid back and recouped by the taxpayer. The Minister for Finance indicated he would pursue all these debtors for every cent borrowed.

These points could be made later in the debate.

It seems the reckless procedure followed here means it is being transferred onto the taxpayer. I am making the suggestion that in the interests of a proper debate and dealing with the realities of what the Government proposes we should see those plans or hear the detail of those plans this evening in the debate.

I am not going to anticipate the terms and content of the debate. From the Government's point of view, the debate is about setting out a banking policy that is credible, that provides the prospect of confidence in our economy domestically and internationally and that enables the banking system and financial institutions to serve our economy's needs at this critical time. This is the basis of the debate and the statement from the Minister for Finance. It is for others to decide how they wish to contribute to the debate. We are making the point that the detail to be announced by the Minister follows due and careful consideration by the Financial Regulator, the Central Bank and its Governor and the Department of Finance, working with the National Asset Management Agency and the National Treasury Management Agency. This is the proposed way forward and represents the Minister's input and that of the Government. This is the way forward for us in the circumstances in which we find ourselves and for us to have a banking system that is fit for purpose for the country.

It seems there are some in this debate who wish to suggest that we can continue with the status quo or that there is some other option by which we can provide for the necessary credit availability in the economy on a sustainable basis without the need for the recapitalisation of these institutions. That is not tenable and the NAMA model we have brought forward provides the means by which the losses can be ascertained and, therefore, differentiated and a professional approach can be taken in respect of the decisions the Minister will announce in the course of his speech today. This is our position and it is for others to put forward their positions in respect of whether they have a policy alternative.

Has the Taoiseach any other options for us?

We do not agree to this motion on banking and we object to the Order of Business proposition. Once again, the Government is treating the Dáil with contempt. It is asking us to rubber-stamp a proposition as part of which we will see further billions of euro of taxpayers' money poured into a zombie bank in the first instance and into the other banks following that. This is an outrageous proposition because in return what are we getting? We are not getting the opportunity to make any intervention in respect of the setting of interest rates, which we have seen rise once again only this week. We do not have the opportunity——

These points can be more than adequately made during the debate.

I am asking the Taoiseach what we are getting in return for making a decision regarding this proposition. We are not getting the opportunity to hold executives and those at the helm of these banking institutions to account or to take the decision to sack them. There is no package here through which we will protect the countless thousands of Irish families who do not know if they will be able to sustain the mortgage repayments on their homes over the time ahead and who run the risk, as others have already done, of losing their family home. These all are very serious matters, and yet we are being asked to approve the pouring of billions of euro into the banking system. This Government has no mandate for this proposition. Let there be no mistake about it, the Taoiseach has no mandate——

Keep in mind the debate later on, starting at 5 o'clock.

——when he was returned in 2007, to carry out these actions. The Taoiseach has no authority to do so. He is asking the Dáil, by the mechanism of Government majority, to pass a motion to give it the semblance of some notion of respect or decency. It has none of those things.

Make no mistake about it, if, as a Dáil Deputy, I were to propose, as I have done in the past, to make an amendment to a Bill that would incur an additional cost of even a postage stamp, my amendment would be ruled out of order because it would impose a further cost on the public purse. That is a fact, and yet here we are being asked to rubber-stamp a proposition that will cost billions of euro today and in the future when young people, and perhaps a generation yet unborn——

This is a Second Stage speech before the debate starts.

——will still have to bear the consequences and the results of this decision.

This is a Second Stage contribution and we need to get a decision on this matter.

I must explain why I am opposing this.

I accept that fully and I have allowed considerable latitude——

This is a serious matter.

——but the Deputy is anticipating the debate.

Make no mistake about it, we are asking the Taoiseach and the Government that if they have the confidence in their formula, the only answer that they should look for is the answer of the people, not of the already sewn-up majority in this Chamber.

Could we have some co-operation in the House?

I ask that they take their proposals to the people, call a general election and let the people decide whether this formula in which they have such belief is, indeed, the right one or the one they wish to endorse. That is what I ask of the Taoiseach. That is my challenge to him. Go to the people with this proposition instead of going through this sham here today in which the outcome is guaranteed by virtue of the majority of Government support in this House.

I do not know how to respond to some of what the Deputies had to say. This Parliament has a duty to discharge, this Government has a duty to discharge and we will have a democratic debate on an important issue for the economic future of the country. This Government has the same and due authority as any other Government that has had the privilege to serve in this Parliament and it derives its authority precisely from the majority it enjoys in this House.

The Taoiseach was not elected with a mandate to do what he is doing.

Please, Deputy Ó Caoláin.

With respect, I will not take a lecture on parliamentary democracy. I am simply making the point that we have to come forward here to deal with a real situation that must be dealt with. This country, no more than any other, must deal with a situation which is global in nature. We must make our financial institutions fit for purpose and we must recapitalise. There is a statement to be made in the House by the Minister for Finance for that purpose and I do not wish to delay him in doing so.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with No. a8 be agreed to.”

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Ó Caoláin, Morgan and Ó Snodaigh rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 70 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3, Private Members' business tomorrow, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 4 agreed to? Agreed.