There have been a number of cases in which personal financial details were leaked to the media by nationalised banking institutions within the control of the Minister for Finance. It is disgraceful and outrageous that private and confidential banking details of individuals have been put in the public domain via our newspapers. It is clear from reading these articles that they go beyond the basic security or mortgage information available to the public by means of a search of the Land Registry, the Registry of Deeds or the Companies Registration Office. The articles refer to business and personal information that individual customers give to banks when looking for loans or refinancing. This sensitive information does not appear on any public register and the only time it usually comes to light is during the course of litigation or other court proceedings, in which case, where business information is sensitive, aspects of hearings can be held in camera.
This is a new and worrying development among nationalised banks. It is not something that has happened, as far are I am aware, in private banks, other than by accidental or implicit divulgence of sensitive information. It is an implied term of the contract between customers and banks that banks will keep their clients' information confidential. This confidentiality is not only confined to account transactions but extends to all banking information held on behalf of customers. The bank's duty of confidentiality to its customers is fundamental to the relationship between the two parties. A breach of this duty can give rise to legal actions but, unfortunately, significant damage can have been done by the time cases come to court.
I raise this issue because a number of business people in my constituency and, I am sure, those of many other Deputies have expressed concern about it. I am referring to regular business people rather than big developers. They are going through a tough time and are concerned about casual talk regarding their businesses and their relationships with their banks. These rumours are undermining their efforts to put their businesses back on track. Concerns have been expressed that details of settlement and refinancing arrangements which customers negotiate with banks could appear in local newspapers. I ask the Minister for Finance to take a stand on this issue to ensure this new culture does not take over within our State-controlled banks. This is a difficult time for many businesses. Individuals provide sensitive business information in the course of their dealings with banks. We should not allow the publication of this information in our newspapers to become a casual or acceptable practice. There should be serious consequences for those who run the State banks if this practice is not brought under control. If it happened in the private banks, someone would be sacked.