Of the 769,000 residential mortgages in the State approximately 71,000 or 9% are now in arrears of more than 90 days and more than 53,000 of these are in arrears of more than 180 days. By contrast, the average in the UK is approximately 2.07%. One in seven mortgage accounts are not being repaid according to the original loan agreement, and this trend is accelerating. According to information from the Oireachtas finance committee, another 47,000 mortgages are in arrears of less than 90 days so the number of mortgage holders in distress is likely to be one in five. The situation is getting worse. It is very difficult for families and households and it has a wider impact in terms of people sacrificing expenditure on health, visits to general practitioners, education, food and heating. All such expenditure is suffering due to the huge debt that overhangs many families. It is also damaging consumer confidence and the wider domestic economy.
The Keane report was published by the Government four and a half months ago. We are still awaiting a formal response from the Government on the implementation of the recommendations in that report. Notwithstanding that we did not think the Keane report went far enough, there has been no action on its recommendations, particularly with regard to establishing, for example, an independent mortgage advice service. On the other hand, we have been constructive on this side of the House. We proposed legislation for the establishment of a debt settlement office but that was refused by the Government. Again, I ask the Taoiseach to be open to constructive solutions. There has been no action taken on the recommendation that an independent mortgage advice service for those in debt be set up. Will the Taoiseach give the House an indication of when the Government's formal response to the Keane report will emerge and lay out the Government's strategy for helping people in significant distress because of mortgage arrears?