I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, after line 31, to insert the following:
"(2) All assets transferred under this section shall continue to be burdened with the legal protections attached to them through the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears and the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 and shall not be transferred to any entity where these legal protections are not present.".
I believe this is the only amendment before us that is in order. The Bill has two sections. One obviously concerns the deal that was done for the Greeks in respect of their debt, the restructuring of it and the role the Central Bank plays in that. Obviously, that is something that we do not object to. Our only objection is that we never got a similar type of deal. It was very disappointing when we heard on Committee Stage that our officials who were negotiating at that time did not even seek such a venture for this State.
That being said, the second part of it deals with the loan book of ICS and other matters surrounding that. The amendment I have put forward is straightforward. It is obviously very much in the public interest given the fact we have seen a number of financial institutions in this State sell on their loan books to unregulated entities. We saw that happen last year. The most notable and recent example has been the sale of the IBRC loan book by KPMG to vulture funds. This is something that has exercised not only those who held those loans. We have seen a number of loan holders taking action and holding a sit-in at the KPMG offices last week. It has also exercised the minds of people who may have loans with other financial institutions which could follow suit and sell on their loan books to unregulated entities. People are concerned about being able to access different instruments of the State such as the Ombudsman for Financial Services or the protections of the code of conduct on mortgage arrears, despite how limited that code is. That is a real risk and fear that has been acknowledged by the Government given the fact that in the legislative programme the Minister for Finance identified the need to bring in legislation in this area to ensure that any loan book sold in the future would come under these provisions.
Here we are today looking at legislation that has been well flagged. It is part of the troika agreement and was supposed to have been passed before the end of last year. It was delayed and we are now looking at the final Stages of it here. About €1 billion of loans at ICS will potentially be sold to vulture funds. It is very clear that when these loans are transferred, the intention is that they will be transferred on. The amendment is quite simple. It basically says that all assets transferred under this section shall continue to be burdened with the legal protections attached to them through the code of conduct on mortgage arrears and the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 and shall not be transferred to any entity where these legal protections are not present. I have heard the counter arguments from the Minister at the pre-legislative stage and on Committee Stage. He talks about the fact that it is likely that the loan book will be bought by a regulated entity in the State because it also buys the infrastructure and it is the infrastructure that it is after. However, the potential is still there for this to be sold to a vulture fund and €1 billion in loans could be held by a vulture fund so that there is no recourse to the Ombudsman for Financial Services and the code of conduct on mortgage arrears. In addition, we would probably be in the same situation as we were a few weeks ago where verbal commitments would be given by these same vulture funds to say that they would live up to these type of commitments. This is wholly inadequate. Yesterday, the Minister told my colleague, Deputy Stanley, that the legislation to ensure that unregulated entities that buy loan books in the future will be burdened by the provisions that exist at this point in time will not be in place until next year. Accepting this amendment and giving security, comfort and reassurance to those whose loans are with ICS and who are fearful they will be sold to vulture funds in the coming days, weeks or months is necessary, prudent and the right thing to do.