Today, 1 July, is the deadline for the banks to get back to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, on the provision of reductions for variable rate mortgages. The Taoiseach must accept that the Minister's initiative has been somewhat of a flop because only two of the six lenders have made minor reductions to their standard variable rate mortgages and one of those was made before the meeting with the Minister.
There are more than 300,000 variable rate mortgage customers in this country paying an average 2% more than the average European customer. There are also 46,000 mortgage holders who are outside the banking system, who have mortgages with vulture funds who bought up their loans and who have absolutely no protection whatsoever. Those people are particularly vulnerable. This is a massive issue in households throughout the country. It is about money in people’s pockets. What is happening at the moment can only be described as a massive rip-off. The rates that are being charged cannot be justified, based on evidence from the banks themselves to the Oireachtas committees. I put it to the Taoiseach that an existing customer with 20 years remaining on a €200,000 mortgage at a rate of 4.5% is paying €992 more than someone availing of a new mortgage, and €3,874 more than someone on a tracker rate. Those are extraordinary variations. They are huge sums of money that matter to thousands of families throughout the country.
Nothing has been done about it. By any yardstick, the Minister’s initiative has been a flop. We have put forward legislative proposals, through Deputy Michael McGrath’s Bill, that are reasonable and balanced and, if adopted, would give capacity to the Central Bank, first, to examine whether there is market failure and then to give directions to the Central Bank to intervene to ensure fairness, equity and, above all, a reduction in the rip-off that is taking place in the context of variable rate mortgages. Does the Taoiseach accept that the Minister’s initiative has been a failure? Will he provide time for debate and accept the Bill that has been published and moved on Second Stage by Deputy Michael McGrath, which would bring a legislative response to this issue, one that the Government has neglected for a number of years?