I move amendment No. 1:
In page 9, subsection (1), to delete line 13 and substitute the following:
"2.—(1) Nothing in section 53 shall be construed as enabling orders to be made under this Act which purport to have the effect of making or changing laws, within the meaning of subsection 2 of section 1 of Article 15 of the Constitution.
(2) In this Act—."
The purpose of this amendment is to address the issue of section 53 in which the Minister gives himself an astonishing range of powers seldom seen outside totalitarian regimes. I am sure it will be much copied if totalitarian-style regimes want to give a Minister for Finance an extraordinary range of powers.
Section 53 exemplifies what is problematical about this Bill. This amendment to subsection (1) states that "Nothing in section 53 shall be construed as enabling orders to be made under this Act which purport to have the effect of making or changing laws, within the meaning of subsection 2 of section 1 of Article 15 of the Constitution”.
Section 53 seeks to give extraordinary powers to the Minister for Finance. As I said at some length during my speech on Second Stage, the Labour Party has called for a clear commitment to a bank resolution regime. The Government agreed to such a regime in the memorandum of understanding between the IMF and the European Union institutions. In fact, according to the memorandum of understanding, a full banking resolution regime is to be in place early in the new year, presumably in the time of the next Government.
We received copies of this legislation yesterday at around 1 p.m. It is a complex Bill comprising 67 pages with 77 sections and two Schedules, one of which is in five parts. Each part sets out substantive amendments to other pieces of legislation, such as the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act and the NAMA Act. In addition, the Bill before us sets out changes to powers concerning the relationship between the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank. We are supposed to deal with all this material by 10 o'clock tonight, out of which 90 minutes will be devoted to Private Members' time.
In dealing with such a Bill, Second Stage is obviously more important than Committee Stage. However, Committee Stage will now be limited to the small amount of time we have been allocated, with almost no opportunity for interested parties, publicly-minded citizens, expert academics and lawyers to examine and consider the Bill with a view to how it might be improved or amended, or what might be deleted or altered in its provisions. The Bill is being railroaded through. It is hard to understand what is its purpose, except in the context of a general election happening early in the new year.
The Labour Party is not opposed to bank resolution regimes. We have called for one. However, this is not a bank resolution Bill. It is a temporary measure that will be in force for only two years. The Government is committed to introducing full special resolution regime legislation by the end of next February under the terms of the IMF-EU memorandum of understanding. The Bill is an interim stop-gap measure. It attempts to plug a gap in a way that will enable the Minister for Finance to dictate a targeted special resolution regime designed to facilitate specific restructuring and reorganisation measures that it is expected will be undertaken in the coming months.
However, the measures are not spelt out in the Bill. From media comment and from a brief discussion I had with the Minister and Department officials — I am sure the same is true of other Opposition parties — we know that the Minister's intention is to address the issues in each of the guaranteed institutions over the next short period of time. We understand, for instance, that the issues in Allied Irish Bank are grave and that it is likely that the further recapitalisation of AIB by the Government will be attended to before the end of the year, and perhaps before Christmas. The Minister knows this but it is not specifically referred to in the Bill, other than that powers in the Bill address all the guaranteed institutions as well as others the Minister may feel require the effect of the legislation.
Not even an optimist could consider that Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society have a future. However, the legislation specifically refers to the Minister reorganising and recapitalising Anglo Irish Bank, as though the aim of the Bill was to save Anglo Irish Bank, when not only is it beyond salvation but it has, pretty much, taken the country down with it.