Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill 2015: Report Stage (Resumed)

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, to delete lines 25 to 31, and in page 6, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the

following:

“ “debt” does not include a debt for repayment of credit provided to the debtor—

(a) by a person pursuant to an authorisation to provide credit in the State granted by the Central Bank of Ireland or an authority that performs functions in an EEA country that are comparable to the functions performed by the Central Bank of Ireland, or

(b) by any other person holding himself or herself out as carrying on a business of, and whose business consists wholly or partly of, providing credit in the State and who provided the credit in the ordinary course of that business;”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 29.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Browne, John.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey; Níl, Deputies Niall Collins and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Amendment declared carried.

Amendment No. 6 has been ruled out of order.

Amendment. No. 6 not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

“ “earnings” means any sums payable to a person—

(a) by way of wages or salary (including any fees, bonus, commission, overtime pay or other emoluments payable in addition to wages or salary or payable under a contract of service), and

(b) by way of pension or other like benefit in respect of employment (including an annuity in respect of past services, whether or not rendered to the person paying the annuity, and including periodical payments by way of compensation for the loss, abolition or relinquishment, or diminution in the emoluments, of any office or employment);

“EEA Agreement” means the Agreement on the European Economic Area signed at Oporto on 2 May 1992, as adjusted by all subsequent amendments to that Agreement;

“EEA country” means a state that is a contracting party to the EEA Agreement;”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 29.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Browne, John.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey; Níl, Deputies Niall Collins and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 6, line 14, to delete “(“judgment debtor”)”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 28.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Browne, John.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey; Níl, Deputies Niall Collins and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Amendment declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 9, 21, 24 to 26, inclusive, 35, 37, 40, 50, 53 and 57 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 6, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

“ “personal public service number” has the same meaning as it has in section 262 of the Act of 2005;”.

These Government amendments are all related to the service of documents. The Bill currently makes reference to the service of documents by the court or that notifications are made to the court when a debtor changes employment. However, this approach is not consistent and, on further reflection, examining other civil law matters in which documents are served on one party by another, I have decided to change it. The court will not be involved in such matters and these amendments address this issue, which a number of Deputies have raised.

Amendment No 9 inserts the definition of “personal public service number”, PPSN, into the Bill. Amendment No. 21 makes clear that the documents served on the debtor under section 6 shall be accompanied by a statement of the debtor’s means. Amendment No. 24 is related and clarifies the intention of section 7(2)(c) regarding the statement of means.

Amendment No. 25 provides for service of the statement of means on the judgment creditor by the judgment debtor rather than the court and, where applicable, the verifying certificate attached to the statement of means. Importantly, it provides that the debtor’s PPSN is not to be disclosed to the creditor.

Amendments Nos. 26, 37, 50, 53 and 57 are consequential technical amendments. Amendment No. 35 substitutes section 11 of the Bill with new text which sets out clearly the requirements for the service of documents in relation to an attachment of earnings order made under section 10. The judgment creditor, and not the court, serves the order on the person to whom it is directed. Amendment No. 40 removes the reference in section 13(3) to notifying the court. The debtor’s new employer is required to notify the creditor, not the court.

That is the description of the servicing of documents, who is responsible and how it is to be done.

I object in particular to amendment No. 25 and the related amendments. As the Bill currently stands, it is quite clear that the court shall not disclose a verifying certificate to the judgment creditor concerned. Amendment No. 25 provides that the judgment creditor would end up with the statement of means of the creditor. It gives more power to the creditor over the debtor than is currently contained in the Bill. For that reason, I will oppose the amendment.

The amendment is in line with the general approach of the Government, which is to attempt to use this legislation to bully people into paying water charges in particular. Although this legislation predates the water charges and originally had nothing to do with them, it is being used as an excuse to try to drive the water charges home. Of course, the Government had quite a problem yesterday when the efficiency of its bullying was revealed to be relatively low. It is very pleasant to finish the parliamentary term on a note of agreement with the Minister for water charges, Deputy Alan Kelly. Despite all of our disagreements throughout the year, we are both more than happy with the levels of payment of the water charges.

Despite the amendments that the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government are making, and despite the fact that those amendments will pass, none of this is a serious threat to the 57% of people who have not paid or to the others who will now join them. There are no direct deductions from wages, social welfare or pensions. There are no deductions whatsoever until two court cases take place. The first of those court cases cannot take place until someone already owes €500, which takes us at least until the end of 2017 before any of this process could start from the point of view of the water charges. They can only take a tiny percentage of non-payers to court and, between now and then, we have an election. If over 50% of people are not paying, this will be the number one issue and there will be immense pressure on the Government to abolish the charges.

I oppose the shifting of the balance of power further towards the creditor in terms of the information and statement of means.

Debt enforcement and recovery of moneys owed is part of any normal economic activity. The provisions in the Bill are in line with many other countries in terms of this issue. The Bill makes sure that those who owe money and have the capacity to pay something towards the debt should do so.

On Second Stage, I went into a lot of detail on how the debtor is protected. I repeat that this follows the Law Reform Commission recommendations. It is one of a suite of measures for the enforcement of debt. Clearly, there are also other mechanisms. Before ever getting to the point where there would be an attachment, there is a series of other opportunities for the debtor to pay. There are all the normal reminders; there is the need to go to court to get the judgment on the debt; and there are options for instalments. There is a variety of measures for debt enforcement and recovery of moneys, and this amendment adds to them.

The provisions of the Bill will be available to a wide range of creditors and utilities, including Irish Water. In this section, I am making very clear that the debtor's PPSN is not to be disclosed to the creditor. That is important. As in any court case, there will be the usual exchange of documents. It would be inappropriate to have a blanket prohibition. It is up to the courts.

I do not agree with Deputy Murphy that this is a change in balance. The Bill is fully balanced between creditor and debtor. The assessment of affordability is key. A baseline has been agreed with the Minister for Social Protection on social welfare payments. There is an assessment of affordability, strong representation to the court by the debtor and, if the circumstances of either party change after the agreement, there is provision in the Bill to return to court and vary the order. We will be discussing the amendments pertaining to the variability order later.

It is clear that the purpose of the amendments is to shift the balance in favour of the creditor. The same applies to amendment No. 50, which allows the creditor to serve the deductions order to the Department of Social Protection rather than the clerk of the court. It is aimed at speeding up the process from the point of view of the creditor. Under the Bill as currently drafted, the creditor does not get the statement of means, while under the Government's amendment, it will.

The more general problem that the Government has is that, although there may be a variety of options to pay the water charges, people are not taking any of them. Instead, we have this new terminology about a suite of measures designed to make people pay. The problem is there is nothing in the suite of measures which is going to bully people into paying. There is nothing in here, compared to all the threats about direct deductions and everything else, that can break the non-payment of 57% of people. The likelihood is that, of the 43% who paid, there is a substantial number who are opposed to water charges but paid under threat or propaganda. They will now see that there are no penalties for non-payment until July 2016 and Irish Water cannot do anything to get the money. Why would they spend more money on something that is going to be abolished? Why throw good money after bad? It is clear that if the water charges are abolished, it is extremely unlikely they would get refunds.

The figures are only going to go in one direction and it will be very difficult for the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, to pronounce himself extraordinarily satisfied and delighted with them as they go up to 60% and 65% non-payment. The Government will have a massive crisis on the issue. All this legislation is worthless from the point of view of forcing people to pay.

I repeat that there is balance in the Bill. It follows on from the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission.

The very important aim of the Bill is to do away with the imprisonment of debtors. That is a key principle and it is fully covered. I have read some documentation that suggests it is not, but it is fully addressed in the Bill. People who cannot afford to pay will not have to pay. That is a very important principle, which is why we have the assessment of means. The court has full authority to look at the means of a person and make very reasonable judgments on what he or she can afford. This is straightforward legislation which allows for this. We must deal with those who owe money but will not pay. The Law Reform Commission in its report acknowledged the need for creditors to recover their debts, in particular where a debtor has the capacity to repay but refuses to engage meaningfully with the creditor. That is what the Bill is about. We are taking the LRC's report and implementing the key recommendation in relation to the imprisonment of debtors and adding to the suite of measures available by ensuring an attachment of earnings order can be made.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 27.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Browne, John.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe Carey and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and Paul Murphy.
Amendment declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 10, 30 to 33, inclusive, 45, 46, 48 and 63 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Amendment No. 63 is consequential on amendments Nos. 31 and 45.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, between lines 32 and 33 to insert the following:

“relevant total amount” means in relation to a relevant order, the total amount specified in the order as being payable under the order to the judgment creditor concerned;”.

These amendments relate to costs and how costs are dealt with in regard to the debt amount. The Bill did not provide sufficient clarity on how costs which arose in an application under the Bill were to be treated. The definition of "judgment debt" deals with the costs which arise in seeking the judgment order in relation to the debt.

Amendment No. 10 inserts a new definition of "relevant total amount" which is the total amount specified in the order as being payable under the order to the judgment creditor concerned. Amendment No. 32 introduces this new term into section 10, which deals with the making of an attachment of earnings order. Amendment No. 46 introduces the term in section 16, which deals with the making of a deduction from payments order. Amendment No. 30 makes clear that it is the costs which arise in relation to an application under section 6 which are being referred to here.

Amendments Nos. 31 and 45 are similar. Amendment No. 31 inserts a new subsection (5) in section 10 while amendment No. 45 inserts a new subsection (4) in section 16. These new subsections make clear that an attachment of earnings order or a deduction from payments order may direct that the costs of an application under section 6 may be included in the total amount to be repaid. Amendments Nos. 33 and 48 are similar. They insert a new subsection (5) in section 10 and new subsection (4) in section 16. These new subsections make clear that the amount being paid off by the debtor is still the original debt amount plus any costs which have been added on. Amendment No. 63, which seeks to delete section 23, arises as a consequence of amendments Nos. 33 and 48. I am advised by the Parliamentary Counsel that it is preferable to deal with these matters in the sections themselves and that section 23 of the Bill should be deleted as a consequence. This relates to the costs that arise during the court case and outlines how they need to be dealt with regarding the original debt.

I oppose the amendments. They are part of the Government's bullying, scaremongering approach. In particular, I highlight amendments Nos. 31 and 45, relating to the costs of the court cases. We are dealing with the costs of the second application of two court cases here being awarded against the so-called debtor. It is about intimidating people into paying bills. In this case, it is attempting to intimidate people into paying their water bills, which is outrageous. Amendment No. 45 relates to pursuing those in receipt of social welfare for costs. It is outrageous and is obviously bullying. We will oppose the measure, the Government will pass it, but outside the Dáil the Government will not be able to use it to bully people, who will know that none of it applies until after 2017, given that they must owe at least €500.

Will the Deputy be in charge? He has a good track record.

It will be nice not to see Deputy Eric Byrne and the Labour Party in the next Government. They will be gone.

Leave him alone.

We will have new social democrats and socialists who do not sell people out and we will have a government that will be forced to abolish water charges. The Labour Party will be abandoned by their voters. Given the levels of payment, they must be a little desperate right now.

How are things in Athens?

The bullying will not work. People know none of it applies until 2017 and we will have the water charges well defeated by then. The bullying should be opposed in here.

As I said, the Bill is fully balanced between creditor and debtor. There is a strong assessment of affordability.

Clear representations can be made to the court by the debtor. There are many protections for the debtor, including the assessment of means. This is one of a suite of measures recommended by the Law Reform Commission. It is quite clear that debt enforcement and the recovery of moneys owed are part of normal economic activity. That is what we are allowing for in this legislation.

Debate adjourned.