Tracker Mortgages: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

"That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

— mortgage rates charged by banks in Ireland, in particular variable rates, continue to be among the highest in Europe;

— the main Irish banks are now highly profitable again;

— problems regarding how the banks were treating tracker mortgage customers were highlighted well before 2015 and at least 7,100 mortgage accounts were affected by tracker related issues across a number of banks up to 2015;

— in October 2015, the Central Bank of Ireland launched an industry-wide examination of tracker mortgage related issues;

— the Central Bank of Ireland has confirmed that, as of the end of September 2017, around 13,000 mortgage account holders had been wrongly denied their contractual right to a tracker rate of interest or were put on the wrong tracker rate;

— the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland confirmed to the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach Committee on 19th October that the number affected is almost certain to increase further;

— some banks involved in the Tracker Mortgage Examination have informally threatened the Central Bank of Ireland with legal action;

— as a direct result of being denied their rights, customers lost the ownership of 102 properties, including 23 private dwelling homes and 79 buy-to-let properties;

— the actions of the banks on this issue have caused untold damage and suffering to the people affected, and in many of these cases, no amount of compensation will be sufficient to repair the harm that has been done to peoples lives;

— the emotional and harrowing testimonies of the customers, who have highlighted the impacts on their health and mental health as a result of the banks' actions, has been pivotal in bringing this issue to light;

— according to the Central Bank of Ireland, two lenders have failed to properly identify 'populations of affected customers' and therefore have not fully completed Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination within the required time;

— the lenders' initial redress and compensation proposals fell materially short of the Central Bank of Ireland's expectations and the regulator had to repeatedly challenge the banks to improve their proposals;

— as part of this examination, the Central Bank of Ireland has commenced enforcement investigations against Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank Ireland DAC, and is preparing two further enforcement investigations, with possibly more to follow;

— only 25 per cent of impacted mortgage accounts have to date received redress and compensation; and

— the approach taken by the banks to date is not acceptable to this House and has inflicted further unnecessary pain and hardship on those affected;

calls on the banks concerned to:

— formally apologise to the customers concerned;

— commit to correcting the overcharging as a matter of urgency and place all relevant mortgage accounts back on tracker mortgage rates without delay;

— fully and comprehensively complete Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination process without any further delay;

— identify all customers affected by the tracker related issues without any further delay and to publish these figures in their entirety, once they are finalised;

— communicate the up-to-date position to all mortgage holders in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— pay redress and compensation, at a level that is at a minimum in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations, to all affected customers without delay;

— provide a detailed explanation on how this scandal occurred in the first instance;

— cease all repossession action where the mortgage concerned is in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— pay adequate compensation to those who lost their home as a result of the banks actions to enable them to purchase an appropriate replacement home; and

— provide a monthly update of the position for all customers affected in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

calls on the Central Bank of Ireland to:

— provide a firm deadline in which the Government expects all affected accounts to be identified and corrected and for all redress and compensation to be paid;

— use the full statutory powers at their disposal to ensure that the lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay, by putting them on the correct rate of interest and by paying redress and compensation in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations;

— conduct a thorough investigation, in respect of each lender in the Tracker Mortgage Examination, as to how this tracker scandal occurred in the first place;

— investigate whether there was any co-ordination, formal or informal, across the industry in the handling of tracker related issues; and

— report circumstances where it obtains information that gives rise to a suspicion that a criminal offence may have been committed by any individual to the relevant authorities including An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; and

calls on the Government to:

— meet with the Central Bank of Ireland and all banks affected and inform them that these practices are unacceptable and have to be corrected without further delay;

— provide whatever resources that are necessary to the Central Bank of Ireland to complete the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— ensure that all statutory powers available are utilised so that lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay;

— introduce legislation, on request from the Central Bank of Ireland, to confer whatever powers are necessary to allow the Central Bank to complete its work and to enable it to impose deadlines for banks to both redress and compensate customers;

— consider:

— all options to impose sanctions on banks that fail to address this issue in a comprehensive and timely manner;

— voting against the reappointment of the entire board of directors in respect of the banks that the State is a shareholder of;

— introducing legislation that would cease all insolvency and repossession proceedings on all tracker related mortgages until all affected customers are redressed and compensated;

— introducing legislation that would empower the Financial Services Ombudsman to independently arrive at redress and compensation levels in both this instance and in future instances;

— introducing legislation that would enable class action suits that would enable a group of affected customers to collectively take legal action against lenders; and

— strengthen consumer protection laws for bank customers and to provide extra powers to the Central Bank of Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission;

— further consider introducing legislation that would make senior decision makers and directors personally liable for decisions made under their remit that have directly led to wrongdoings and to increase the penalties for such offences;

— introduce a helpline in the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman to assist bank customers in relation to tracker mortgages; and

— reaffirm its commitment on the pay cap in place for banks and the ban on bonuses."

I want the Minister of State to imagine a scenario where he loses his home, the home in which he spent the most precious moments with his family and the home where he has so many happy memories and some not so happy memories, and he loses that home not because of anything he or his family did wrong but because the bank took his money and denied him the ability to pay his mortgage. That is the reality of the issue we are raising tonight regarding the tracker mortgage scandal. This is a human story. It is not a story about account numbers, populations or cohorts of customers. It is about people - real people. It is about the cases of self-harm, the mental stress and anxiety, the lost memories, the things people could not afford to do for so many years, the people who suffered strokes and the families that decided they could have no more children. These are just some of the examples of the real-life consequences people caught up in this scandal have had to deal with over the past ten years or so. It is about the people we represent in this House. The onus is on us to put their interests first - ahead of anybody else. The truth is that thousands of people - an unknown number if truth be told - have been living with this nightmare for up to a decade and longer. The Government cannot compensate them. That is the reality. How can it compensate people for those consequences? It simply cannot do it but what it must do is do its best to right the wrong and make sure they get the justice they deserve.

Against that harrowing background, commercial banks in this country have threatened the Central Bank with legal action for doing its job and endeavouring to protect consumers. God knows, the Central Bank could have done better in all of this as well. There is no question about that. As we debate this issue tonight, the stark reality is that at least 75% of the people caught up in this have not got their money back. Their own money has not been repaid to them by the banks that took it from them. That is the situation tonight. With all the hand-wringing and all the tough language from the Government, people are still out of pocket and have not been given their own money.

The truth is that the Government has been incredibly slow to wake up to this problem and indeed to its scale. The response today from the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and the Government is not adequate. The bankers who caused this will sleep well tonight - there is no question about that - but the people whose lives they have devastated in some cases will continue to have sleepless nights because their nightmare continues. That is the reality I want the Minister of State and everyone in government to accept. Looking at all the statements from the banks, the Minister and the Central Bank, I have no confidence that we will not be here this time next year still dealing with the fallout from this issue. The truth is that no deadline has been imposed for the repayment of people's own money. In a statement today, Ulster Bank told us that it could be up to the middle of next year, June 2018, and that is for the customers who have been identified.

They are the mortgage customers whose account numbers they have. They know who they are, how long they were overcharged for and how much they have been overcharged by, yet we are being told they may have to wait until next June before they get their own money back.

The banks' actions have been reprehensible in creating this problem in the first place and in their handling of it over the past ten years or so. The Central Bank has told us as much. The banks have failed to identify customers which the Central Bank knows have been affected by this issue. The Central Bank has told us it had to repeatedly challenge the banks on the scale of redress and compensation to be paid to customers caught up in this. That is the reality. The banks have not been open, transparent or upfront in their dealings in this issue. They have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, every step of the way to ensure people got their money back. Above all else, what I really want to know is - it is a question for the Central Bank as much as it is for the Minister of State and the Government - will there be accountability at the end of this? Will we ever find out how this scandal happened? I am not so sure we will because the Central Bank has concluded an enforcement investigation into the first part of this which concerned Springboard Mortgages.

The Central Bank found Springboard Mortgages was wrong. It caught it out, reprimanded it and fined it €4.5 million. We might as well be fining ourselves. I do not say that because we own shares in the banks. I say it because it is fining the customers because that is ultimately where fines are collected and paid. In that case, up to €68,000 was taken from individual customers. There has been no individual accountability for it. That is the investigation that has been concluded. If it is a taste of what is to come with the other ten lenders caught up in this, it is just not good enough that at the end of this, we will not know the simple truth. We will not know the answer to the simple question: how did it happen in the first place? I do not believe for a second it was all an accident. I do not believe that all the banks happened to make the same mistake around the same time in a way that cost their customers money but was in the financial interest of the bank. It would stretch the credibility of any person in this country to believe that to be the case and I certainly do not.

What could the Minister have done? He could have said today that the Central Bank will be given whatever resources it needs to deal with this, not the paltry 26 people it currently has working on it compared with the 1,000 people it has working across the banking system. The Minister could have said fitness and probity powers would be invoked under the 2010 Act. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. He could have made it clear that in the State banks, in which we have shares, that he is prepared to vote against the reappointment of directors at the next AGM and against their remuneration packages. He could have said that but he did not. The Minister made no comment in his statement about the repossession proceedings that are ongoing for customers still caught up in this. The policy is they are not to be pursued but I do not believe that is happening. The Minister could have said he will introduce legislation for class actions. That has not happened. He could have said there will be a completely independent system of compensation set up at arm's length and completely removed from the banks. That was not said and it is not happening. He could have said that those who lost their homes because of this will be given a replacement house. They have not. He could have put a firm deadline on the issue.

There are so many things I could touch on. There is the prevailing rate issue of the 3.67% customers in AIB and the 3.25% customers in Permanent TSB. That issue needs to be dealt with. There is no mention of the staff working in the banks who are also affected by this. It has been reported there are up to 2,000 in Bank of Ireland. There is no mention of the pre-2006 customers who feel they are being denied justice at this point in time. There is no mention of the customers who have yet to be contacted. It is part of a pattern by the Government. I will revert to that later on but it is part of a pattern of deference to the banking system and the institutions that in recent years have not served us well.

The banks cannot be trusted to act honestly or fairly with their customers. If any proof was needed, the tracker mortgage scandal of recent weeks is that proof. However, it is only the latest in a long line of misconduct. Fine Gael, in government since 2011, has allowed the banks to have a veto on family mortgage arrears. The damage to people's health and to families caused by the callous attitude of the banks is immense. Therefore, the removal of a bank veto, which is included in my party's Mortgage Arrears Resolution (Family Home) Bill must be introduced in legislation as quickly as possible. I urge Fine Gael not to try to block or delay it.

A greater scandal occurred when the banks sold distressed mortgages to predatory vulture funds at a discount price. It was an effort by the banks to offload their responsibility when they clearly know that eviction and resale is the business model of these vulture funds. Vulture funds are operating without regulation, which is unbelievable. A penal stamp duty on the sale of mortgages by the banks to these vulture funds would put manners on both parties and send the vulture funds packing. Deputy Noonan, as Fine Gael Minister for Finance, considered the natural order of things was that vultures should clean the carcass of the recession. That Government had a significant majority with the Labour Party and allowed banks to ride roughshod over the people. The Dáil is a different place since February 2016. This Fine Gael Minister will not be allowed to take the same right-wing attitude when it comes to dealing with the banks. The Dáil will not allow the vulture funds to go on unregulated. The Dáil will not allow the banks to veto efforts to resolve the family mortgage arrears crisis. It will force the banks, kicking and screaming if necessary, to refund the money stolen by them from tracker mortgage customers. It will finally put manners on the banking sector and make it realise it is not outside the law.

There are many who say that all the main parties in this House are the same, but it is not so. Between 2011 and 2016, Fine Gael operated a right-wing, conservative, market forces type attitude towards the banks without a murmur from the Labour Party. Since February 2016, my party has put forward a different vision for managing the banking sector, a vision in which the banking sector must be strictly regulated and forced to obey the laws of the land. It must not be allowed to have a veto over the people. Since the banks were bailed out, they have acted in a treacherous way towards this country. The people will judge harshly any party that tries to block the rebooting of the banking sector.

I thank Deputy McGrath for bringing forward this motion and for his determination in this area. The latest tracker mortgages scandal exposed shocking abuses in the banking sector but few are surprised. The banks all acted against the consumer at the same time and in the same manner. It was clearly not a coincidence but systematic, systemic and designed to stigmatise customers. The Government has until now adopted a hands-off approach and it is inexcusable. The Central Bank and the Department of Finance have been aware of the banks' behaviour over a number of years yet only chose to act after the finance committee gave them no choice. The Government has on occasion suggested it is merely a cultural issue but when one deliberately and wrongly takes someone else's money without his or her consent, it is not a cultural issue, it is simply theft.

The banks' reckless and calculated behaviour has endangered lives and caused huge distress to families in Wexford and across the country. I have dealt with constituents who have suffered suicidal ideation as a result of the relentless pressure they have been put under. Up to 30,000 customers have been affected by this. That is 30,000 families and potentially well over 100,000 people. The banks did what they liked while they waged psychological warfare on their victims who were their customers. With this in mind, more needs to be done to help those who have experienced mental ill-health as a result of the actions of financial institutions. In 2011, the Mental Health Commission produced a report entitled The Human Cost. It recommended that financial institution staff receive training on dealing with vulnerable customers. On numerous occasions I asked the Minister for Finance about the implementation of the Mental Health Commission's report. The Minister consistently answered that it was none of his responsibility and consistently refused to give an answer. According to the HSE's national office of suicide prevention, a day-long programme was provided in June 2013 but fast forward four years and there is little sign of any progress. I ask the Minister to ensure it will now become mandatory for the recommendations from the Mental Health Commission to be imposed and that those working at the higher level of financial institutions be given training on how to deal with vulnerable customers.

What we have seen in recent days is a complete charade with banks trooping into the Department of Finance and effectively pulling the wool over everybody's eyes again. Deputy Michael McGrath is right in saying they will sleep soundly in their beds tonight. Unfortunately, the thousands of people who have been affected by the banks' reprehensible treatment will not sleep soundly and their nightmare will drag on. Let us call it for what it is; we have seen institutional theft on a grand scale being perpetrated for many years with the Government standing idly by.

Why did the Government not offer a suite of measures to deal with the issue and make the decision makers in the banks personally liable for their decisions? Unfortunately in our clinics through our work as constituency public representatives we have all witnessed the havoc this has wreaked on so many people's lives. Grown people have been crying in our clinics and constituency offices because of the treatment the banks have handed down to them.

All we hear is that it is a cultural problem. It is far greater than a cultural problem. There is a serious problem with the State and the Government dealing with white-collar crime. Let us call it what it is, white-collar crime. We saw the collapse of the Anglo Irish Bank trial and the complete abdication of resourcing of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Moreover, the Central Bank does not have the proper powers.

The people want to see the Government standing up and being on their side. I compliment our spokesperson and Deputy McGuinness on their work, along with Deputy Pearse Doherty and other members of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, who brought it to the fore. It should not be necessary to bring in members of the public and for them to have to detail their experiences at an Oireachtas committee for this issue to be sorted out. We want to see it sorted out in a timely fashion. If it is not sorted out by Christmas, we will need to come back and deal with the suite of measures Deputy Michael McGrath has detailed in tonight's Private Members' motion and make bankers criminally liable and culpable for the decisions they made which have wrecked people's lives.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very serious issue. I commend Deputy Michael McGrath on tabling another excellent motion, highlighting the problems nobody seems to be addressing. It is putting untold unnecessary pressure on families and people in general.

There is only one word to describe this; it is absolutely outrageous. It is a scandal of the highest level. The banks and bankers have wrecked families' lives and driven them out on the street and they do not appear to give a damn. They have got away with it and we are depending on the Central Bank to hold them to account. We know the Central Bank has failed us in this situation. The people who made the decisions and signed off on this are known and can be found out. What will be done? Will these people be brought to justice? Will they be highlighted? Will they be chased in the way that they chase people who miss one month's repayment on a mortgage or chase businesses to take back their small well-serviced overdrafts? Those businesses have been the lifeblood of the economy over the past ten years and give the Government the money to deliver the front-line services.

That is what is happening in reality. If we want to go to the Central Bank and pretend everything is good, we are not in the real world. There is a major systemic problem here. It needs to be dealt with and the Government must lead. The tail can no longer wag the dog, as is happening. These people must be brought to account and justice must be done because this is scandalous. Families have been destroyed. I was concerned when I heard the Taoiseach today speak of the Central Bank taking advice from the Central Bank. The Central Bank was the very bank that gave the Government advice last year when Deputy Michael McGrath wanted to introduce a Bill to help put €250 a month into people's pockets which was unfairly taken from them by the commercial banks because the variable interest rate is 1.5 to 1.7 percentage points higher than other European countries. However, the Central Bank advised that we could not do that and the Government resisted it. While I do not like saying it, how can we rely on the Central Bank and perhaps elements within the Government to deal with this comprehensively and get the people properly compensated? It is wrong; it is a scandal.

The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy is in the House. It is regrettable that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, is not here. It is also worth noting that not one other Fine Gael Deputy is here to support him on this hugely important issue that impacts on people from all parts of the country. I could not have heard a more compassionate introduction than I heard from Deputy Michael McGrath. I commend him on all his work on the issue. He is right; it is about real people on the ground. I want to talk about some constituents of mine in Kildare South, who have been very seriously impacted by this.

The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, is welcome to the Chamber.

One couple, let us call them Tom and Mary, have been waiting for six months for clarification from their bank. They have struggled over the past ten years to pay their mortgage with the repayment at times being more than 50% of their net income. Their level of repayments has hugely impacted on their lives in a very negative way. It has impacted on their work prospects and their mental health. They have small children and often they were two pay packets away from having their home repossessed. They have suffered enough and it is about time the banks were forced to repay the money that was stolen from them.

Another young man, Derek, is in a similar situation. He has had practically no disposable income for the past six years. He and his partner have not been able to afford to get married or start a family. He has fallen behind in utility bills and is not able to afford coal or other fuel during the winter. He cannot afford to pay the Revenue Commissioners and has received threats of court action and sheriff repossession. This period has involved stress, worry and ultimately depression for him and his family. There are many more like him and the story gets worse because many have lost their homes.

Fianna Fáil supports people like Mary, Tom and Derek, who have been denied their contractual rights by banks. We call on all the banks to identify all the customers affected to instantly restore all affected customers to their tracker rates and most importantly to pay redress and compensation to all. This is nothing short of a scam and it is a national scandal. It is illegal and immoral, and we demand action now.

I move amendment No. 1:

(a) To delete the following after “calls on the Central Bank of Ireland to:”:

“— provide a firm deadline in which the Government expects all affected accounts to be identified and corrected and for all redress and compensation to be paid;”

and replace with:

“— provide a firm deadline in which it expects all affected accounts to be identified and corrected and for all redress and compensation to be paid;”

(b) To delete the following after “take legal action against lenders; and”:

“— strengthen consumer protection laws for bank customers and to provide extra powers to the Central Bank of Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission;”

and replace with:

“— consider strengthening consumer protection laws for bank customers and provide extra powers to the Central Bank of Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission;” and

(c) To delete the following after “increase the penalties for such offences;”:

“— introduce a helpline in the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman to assist bank customers in relation to tracker mortgages; and”

and replace with:

“— ask the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman to consider introducing a helpline to assist bank customers in relation to tracker mortgages; and”

I am coming at this from a funny sort of space. I was a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach when the matter was raised initially. I compliment the members of the present committee and the equivalent committee in the previous Oireachtas.

I thank Deputy Michael McGrath for raising this very important issue in the House this evening. As the Taoiseach recently stated in this Chamber, the behaviour of the banks over the tracker mortgage issue has been scandalous. This scandal should never have happened and the Government is determined to ensure that it should not be repeated.

The Minister for Finance has now met the chief executive officers of the main banks, namely, Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB and KBC. As Deputies will note, all five banks have now made statements unreservedly apologising for their behaviour. This, however, is very much a belated development and on its own will be worthless.

The top priority now for the Government is to ensure that all affected customers are identified and crucially, that the wrong is put right through the payment of appropriate redress and compensation. Let me be very clear on behalf of the Government: the time has now come for the banks to move urgently on this.

For the record, here is the position after the Minister met the banks. AIB is now committed to the payment of redress and compensation to more than 4,100 of its customers before the end of this year. Bank of Ireland is now committed to the payment of redress and compensation to 4,300 of its customers before the end of this year. Permanent TSB is now committed to the payment of redress and compensation to almost 2,000 customers before the end of this year. Ulster Bank is now committed to the payment of redress and compensation to 1,000 customers before the end of this year. KBC also expects to pay the majority of its almost 500 impacted customers this year. All banks have committed to resolving and completing payments to outstanding impacted accounts in 2018.

The Government has also determined that a range of follow-up actions must be pursued to ensure banks stand by these commitments. Crucially, they must now actively and constructively engage with the Central Bank and provide all the information required by and within the timelines set by the Central Bank.

The Minister for Finance has asked the Governor of the Central Bank to provide him with a progress report by December, in particular, on whether the banks have made acceptable and sufficient progress in line with the commitments they announced today. Let me be clear to Members: if banks do not meet their new requirements, other issues will be brought to the table.

Turning to the motion before the House this evening, first, I wish to state the Government very much agrees with the sentiment and substance of the motion tabled by Deputy Michael McGrath. While the Government has tabled an amendment to the motion, it is only seeking to make some very small adjustments to the motion; none of these it is suggested will detract in any substantive way from the initial motion.

In total, the Government is proposing three minor amendments to the original motion. In indent number one, under the heading "calls on the Central Bank of Ireland to:", the Government proposes to delete the words "the Government" and replace them with the word "it". The purpose of this change is to make clear that the reference is to the Central Bank. It is considered that it would be more appropriate to refer to the Central Bank in this particular context, given that the Central Bank is independent in the performance of its supervisory and regulatory functions in regard to regulated financial service providers.

The Government is also proposing some minor amendments to both the fourth last and second last indents of the motion. In the fourth last indent, the Government is proposing to replace the current sentence to provide that consideration will be given to strengthening consumer protection laws, if necessary. As Deputies may be aware, the Minister’s recent statement indicates that he has made a formal request under section 6A of the Central Bank Act 1942, as amended, asking that the Central Bank prepare a report on the current cultures, behaviours and associated risks in the banks. On foot of this report, the Government will consider and determine whether any additional legislative and regulatory changes are needed that would enhance accountability in the banks and ensure customer interests are prioritised. The Government is of the opinion that this will be a better time and context to consider legislative amendments which may better assist the Central Bank and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in fulfilling their roles.

The final amendment being proposed by the Government seeks only to recast the motion to request that the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman consider introducing a helpline to assist bank customers in relation to the tracker mortgage issue. Having regard to their respective independent statutory remits, it is considered that this would be a more appropriate formulation of the understandable desire to help provide more assessable information to impacted, and potentially impacted, tracker mortgage borrowers regarding the status of their complaints.

While it is important that this House raises and discusses issues of very significant relevance to the public, and in particular on matters which have wrongly and adversely impacted on some households, it is also important to recognise the work the Central Bank has already done during the course of the tracker investigation. Since 2010 the Central Bank has been dealing with mortgage lenders on tracker mortgage-related issues. The Central Bank had identified and pursued issues in relation to transparency with specific lenders regarding their borrowers who opted to switch from a tracker rate or who had a right to revert to a tracker rate after the end of a period where their mortgage rate was fixed. Individual cases were also presented to the Financial Services Ombudsman and that office was making determinations on those cases, some of which were also coming before the courts. Also, due in part to these developments, the matter was coming to greater public attention more generally.

Having regard to such developments, the Central Bank issued a public statement in October 2015, which indicated that it had commenced a systems-wide examination of tracker mortgage related issues, which covered, among other things, transparency of communications with and contractual rights of tracker mortgage borrowers. This examination has turned out to be the largest review ever carried out by the Central Bank on its consumer protection side. It covered 15 mortgage lenders - 11 of which it has transpired have issues to address - which may at any time have sold a tracker mortgage product to a consumer borrower, and required the review of over 2 million mortgage accounts. It covers both banks and other regulated lenders and includes lenders who are no longer providing new mortgage credit. It also covers mortgages which have been redeemed or instances of tracker mortgages which have been transferred to another creditor.

The examination has required all lenders to examine the extent to which they have been meeting not only their contractual obligations to their tracker mortgage customers but also compliance with their obligations under the Central Bank’s consumer protection code and other consumer protection regulatory requirements in their dealings with their customers; in particular in the way material information was or was not provided to their customers to enable them make an informed decision on the options available to them regarding their mortgage.

However, matters are now coming to a head and the process of the payment of compensation by all the banks will now intensify. Nevertheless, what has been clear now for some time is that mortgage customers have been treated disgracefully by mortgage lenders and many of them have incurred considerable loss or even greater harm, in particular those who have either directly or indirectly lost their homes due to these harmful actions by lenders. Sadly, some of the harm done to customers at this point is irreparable. I believe that all parties in the House are in agreement that the banks' behaviour has been completely unacceptable.

I would like to pay tribute to Deputy Michael McGrath, the other Deputies in the House, the members of the Oireachtas joint finance committee and also those people outside this House, who participated in the previous Oireachtas and who are no longer members of the committee, who have over a long period sought to bring this scandal to public attention and to ensure that the harm caused to those many impacted borrowers would be recognised and, as far as possible at this point, put right. This work has demonstrated a high level of public service and for that I thank those members and former Members of the Oireachtas.

I call Deputy Pearse Doherty who I understand is sharing with Deputy Tóibín.

I am. I will take ten minutes and Deputy Tóibín will have five minutes.

That is agreed.

I welcome the motion tabled by Deputy Michael McGrath. I commend him on using his party's Private Members' time to raise this issue. I also would like to move my party's amendment, which would strengthen the motion. It is important that the House would speak with one voice on this issue. The House spoke with one voice on this issue previously. It was on 24 January 2017 when Sinn Féin used its Private Members' time to bring forward a motion on tracker mortgages. At that time we called for a firm deadline to be put in place where everybody affected would be compensated and redressed. That never happened. That motion called for legislation to be introduced that would examine individual accountability within the banks. That never happened. The motion called for many other things to be done that simply did not happen. What happened over that period is that the Central Bank, instead of imposing the firm deadline it originally put in place in terms of the banks, decided to extend it by a year. Nine months ago I sat in that chair and questioned the Taoiseach. I told him he needed to bring in the State-owned banks. I said then that there were more people outside this House who lost their homes than those who were sitting in the Chamber. We could imagine that if one of us had lost our home, far more political attention would be focused on that issue. This is not something the Minister just found out about last week or last month. He has known about this for years and years. His Cabinet colleagues have also known about this for year and years. He, like me, has been getting the letters, as Deputy Michael McGrath and other Deputies have recited in this Chamber, about the hardship and the pain suffered by these people. It was not only about losing their homes as some lost a lot more than that.

Children lost their childhood. People lost their mental health. Parents are telling us that the additional classes they needed for their child with autism did not happen. Children's development was delayed as a result of this. The Government knew all of this and it did nothing. In 2013 I started questioning the banks about the tracker mortgages. I directly asked the chief executive officer, CEO, of Permanent TSB what was going on with moving customers off tracker mortgages. He looked me in the eye and told me it was not happening. I knew it was because just a couple of weeks earlier, I had sat in the kitchen of personal friends whose home that same bank - that same CEO - tried to take from them. By how much were they in arrears? Less than €400. That is a bank that the Minister's Government owned at the time. Within minutes of seeing their contract documents, it was easy to identify that they should have been on a tracker rate. It said so in black and white: "Special condition No. 6," meaning they would revert back onto a tracker rate after the period of the fixed contract.

The Government did nothing. Four years on, that issue is still not addressed. The family had to deal with the internal complaints procedure, listen to people deny what was written in black and white, and had to go to the Financial Services Ombudsman where their case could not be dealt with because the bank the Government owned was appealing a similar decision all the way to the Supreme Court - with no action from the Government. Finally, when the bank held up its hands and said it was wrong and that it had stolen about €30,000 from the family, they were put back onto the wrong rate. The Minister's statement today did not mention that. He was completely silent on the fact that victims of the tracker scandal are being put onto the wrong rates. His statement did not mention that there is inadequate compensation. Does he think it is right or appropriate that people would get compensation in the region of €2,500 to €3,000 who had so much taken from them over a period of six or seven years, along with all the hardship they had to go through and everything that was robbed from them, not just financially but everything else? It is pathetic. The Minister did not even address that with the CEOs of the banks. Nor did he address the question of who made the decisions in the banks. It was pointed out to them by the customers that they were taking the money unlawfully. It was definitely escalated to a higher level and people in senior management definitely made the decision to hold firm. Who is accountable and when is the Government going to hold the individuals accountable?

We had the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, going on RTÉ radio today and telling us that on top of the 13,000 known and 7,000 historic cases, there is likely to be another 7,000 cases. When are those individuals going to receive their compensation and redress? Has the Central Bank told the Minister that it is changing its position? Its officials told us in the finance committee that if the banks do not agree to compensate and redress these individuals, the Central Bank will signpost them to the Financial Services Ombudsman or the courts. That is a pathetic response from the Central Bank of Ireland. It has the powers to take the institutions to court and should not be passing the buck and asking individuals, the victims in this case, to take the risk of challenging major financial institutions, some of which are State-owned, through the courts process. I listened to the Minister of State's interview. He said he noted that the banks have met the demands of Government. Was it his demand that, out of 3,500 Ulster Bank customers who are already identified - of whom 2,000 were identified this time last year because they told the finance committee that - some 2,500 would not get any compensation or redress in 2017? Was it his demand that many of them will have to wait until the middle of next year? Is that what he signed up to? For AIB it is expected that there are 450 other customers who have not been identified and who will not get redress or compensation in 2017. It will be up to the end of March 2018 before that issue is sorted. It is the same for the 600 in KBC. How the hell did the Government sign off on that? The banks are playing the Minister for a fool. What has been decided? What is the big action of the Government? The Minister is going to commission two reports. This was the biggest bank robbery in the history of the State. Families and lives were destroyed and the response is not up to the mark.

We have proposed an amendment to the motion. The Minister needs to get real about this issue. The House needs to speak with one voice on it. We are asking that there be a weekly report on the number of customers who are going to be compensated and given redress. I mean proper compensation. We ask that the Law Reform Commission's report from 2005 be implemented, something I have been raising for quite some time. That means changing the orders of the courts and introducing the legislation that was produced over a decade ago to allow for class actions. There is no doubt that hundreds of victims are going to take the banks to court. They know fine will they are not going to get accountability from Government circles or the Central Bank. Indeed, the Financial Services Ombudsman in previous times also let those customers down.

We also want to make sure that the individuals who are restored on the tracker rate are restored at the appropriate rate. Members had an opportunity to speak with one voice last time but unfortunately, the amendment from Fianna Fáil deleted my original motion, which called on the Central Bank, the Garda and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement to co-operate with a view to establishing whether individuals and corporate entities could be held accountable for their part in this scandal. That was nine months ago. Maybe the words of the victims will let this House agree that it is now time we got all of the agencies of the State working together to make sure there is individual accountability. One thing is sure, because we will not rest until it happens, and that is the tracker mortgage scandal will be dealt with. However, this scandal will replicate itself in a different guise unless we hold individual bankers accountable. What type of country are we living in, if the Minister or the Government thinks it is okay that bankers stole €500 million from their customers' accounts yet not one of them will go to jail or lose his job?

I know the Government has made a political decision. The temple was raised so high that the Government had to be seen to be acting. It pulled the banks in eventually and they told the Minister the timelines for how they are going to deal with this issue, and the Minister accepted that. Most of the information he has put in the public domain today is information we elicited from the banks a month ago. Permanent TSB told the finance committee last month that all of its customers will be restored and compensated before the end of the year. There is no news there. Ulster Bank told us that it will be the middle of next year. Bank of Ireland told us that redress and compensation will begin shortly. We knew Ulster Bank was up and running. Yet the Minister goes on RTÉ and says the Government is accepting that, because of IT problems, 2,500 customers whose accounts, as Deputy Michael McGrath said, the banks have and about whom they therefore know, whose money they are meanwhile unlawfully holding, will not get the money back until 2018. It is not acceptable. I will rest it at that.

I will raise one case which is useful in respect of what is happening here. A family in County Meath bought two houses in 2006 as part of their plans to provide for their pensions. The mortgage was contractually to revert to a tracker mortgage after two years. In 2008 this did not happen and the bank started to overcharge. The bank charged the family to the tune of €31,000 over the correct amount in that period. The differential on a monthly basis was about €500 extra, or about 37% more than should have been charged.

The family scrimped and scraped and managed to pay that mortgage from 2008 to 2013 but then the family broke and they went into serious arrears through no fault of their own. The bank threatened the family with receivers and forced them into a sale of those houses.

This family comprises four young children. They suffered unimaginable stress and also feared that the family farm would also be forcibly sold. The houses were emptied of their tenants and the sales process was brought through each stage only to be stopped at the final stage because the bank felt that the amount that would be achieved from the sale would not be sufficient to cover the loan. At that point, the bank forced the withdrawal of those sales, the houses were left without tenants and the bank went silent. It made no contact with the family for 18 months. The houses remained empty for two years. Two years of rental income was lost to the family due to the forced sale process being cancelled and the subsequent of silence on the part of the bank. What has happened since? The family has been offered compensation of €3,567 plus some interest with regard to the overcharged amount, bringing the compensation to just over €6,000. The forgone rent in respect of the two houses for two years does not figure for this bank. The nine years of serious stress and anxiety between 2008 and the present day does not figure either.

This nightmare is not over for this particular family. They are still in arrears as a result of what happened to them. The family recently tried to trade in their old broken-down car for a newer second-hand car but when they tried to get finance for it, they were told they could not get it because they have a bad credit rating because they are in arrears, arrears which they are in through no fault of their own. The family is confused. They do not know whether to follow the appeals process or go to court or what the Government proposes to do to fix their situation.

The banks in this State are a law onto themselves. I believe that Fianna Fáil and this Government have overdosed on undue deference to the banks for years. They have maxed out future generations of the Irish people on bank-related debts. The banks are still refusing to deal with tens of thousands of people in mortgage distress. Today, we heard that they are rejecting almost half of the personal insolvency proposals put to them. The Government allowed banks to sell to vulture funds properties that they would not sell at the same price to people living in those houses. It refused to create a public banking sector or to allow the credit unions into the community banking sector. The Government has spoken about a pillar banking system. In reality, what we have is an oligopoly banking system that exists to protect the profits of those particular banks.

The Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, mentioned culture. In all of the examples that we have discussed, nobody is being held to account. Not holding people to account creates the culture of unaccountability. This crisis is a function of the culture of unaccountability in the banks. What is really going to hurt people at the back of this latest scandal is the fact that the banks will not pay for this scandal. The people who will pay for it are the same people who are watching this debate, the people who have variable interest rate accounts with the banks. Given the manner in which the Government is proceeding on this matter, it will be variable interest rate account holders and not the shareholders, dividend recipients or staff of the banks who will pay for this.

The Labour Party is supporting the Fianna Fáil motion in general but we believe the actions of these now profitable banks needs to be recognised and punished, which the Central Bank will do in part. However, because of the historic losses of the banks, many of them will not pay corporation tax for decades. It was for this reason the banking levy was introduced in 2014 at a rate of €150 million per year. Allied Irish Banks, AIB, and Bank of Ireland will likely record profits of more than €3 billion in 2017. Increasing the total levy to €300 million would be a clear sign that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

The Labour Party is also concerned that AIB may have lowballed the number of those impacted, coincidentally in advance of its flotation. We need to know the total number of mortgage accounts impacted. It is clear that the tracker mortgage scandal has caused huge distress to thousands of families across Ireland, with 13,000 customers already identified and that number expected to increase. A total of 102 houses and apartments were repossessed as a fall-out from this scandal, 23 of which were family homes and 79 of which were buy-to-let properties. Simply put, 23 families were put out of their homes as a result of what can be only reasonably be described as malpractice on the part of the banks.

As the Central Bank has made clear, only 25% of those affected have received redress or compensation. The behaviour of Irish banks shows that no significant cultural change has occurred over the past decade. Despite major reforms, Irish banks still do not fear the law or the regulator and they remain contemptuous of customers' rights. While the Minister has spoken to the banks this week, it is simply not good enough that the tracker mortgage scandal is still unresolved. The belief that these type of chats will resolve the issue is misplaced. The Minister has said that he is disappointed and that the banks have let themselves down. Let us be clear - these are not naughty school children, rather they are major businesses that have removed contractual rights from their customers. Some of these institutions are in majority State ownership. This is not acceptable behaviour.

Today, all five banks made statements unreservedly apologising to their customers who have been adversely and shamefully impacted by the tracker mortgage scandal but it has taken years to get to this point. We now need to see full transparency on the part of the banks concerned in regard to the number of customers affected in each case and clear explanations about what happened in those cases and, critically, who was responsible. We also need each institution to provide a schedule as to when customers will be compensated and the specific individual issues resolved. This should be completed by Christmas at the latest. To be clear, everyone affected should have received their compensation by Christmas. Full transparency is essential.

It is clear that this behaviour has been endemic across a number of banks but we have yet to be told why it happened. To the outside observer, the pattern of the scandal would indicate an organised conspiracy to remove contractual obligations from customers. In effect, many people were forced to pay more than they should have and at least 23 families have lost their homes. This is tantamount to an organised cartel among most, if not all, of the banks. Competition authorities in Ireland and Europe need to address this matter robustly and to gather the necessary information.

We are told that the Central Bank is meeting the Garda. If this is so, it can only be because someone suspects that a crime, or crimes, have been committed. If so, it is the first duty of the Central Bank to do all that it can and should do to assist the Garda in carrying out a comprehensive criminal investigation so that any and every wrongdoer is brought to justice. It is our judgment that the banks, which have benefitted from the extraordinary support and benevolence of the taxpayers of this State, have once again perpetrated a gross act of betrayal on the Irish people. As has been said, this is not the first time this House has debated this issue. While many Members of the House have been raising it for many years, it was the bravery of particular mortgage holders who brought it to public attention. The distress they faced, and their bravery in fighting for their rights, must be recognised by this House tonight. It should be a marker in the sand that this type of scandal can never happen again.

I am sharing time with Deputy Boyd Barrett.

I want to start by quoting from an email I received from a woman named Caitríona. It states:

We fixed our mortgage in August 2007 for three years, and it clearly stated on our fixing contract from Ulster Bank that we had the option of returning to our tracker rate upon the expiry of the fixed period. As happened many others, of course, this was then denied to us in 2010 and Ulster Bank from that point on have overcharged us to the tune of hundreds of euro a month. For example, in 2016 they were charging us 4.1% when our rate ought to have been 0.75% ... Finally, in February this year ... they put us back on the right rate. However, they still are holding on to tens of thousands of euros of our money and our lives are on hold until we know how much of our money they are going to return to us, and when. During the years in question, our two children were born and they are now aged 8 and 6. They have never known a time when we have not been battling with the bank and stressing to the hilt about trying to get our situation resolved. In order to make ends meet during these years: we have taken long term students in to live with us to help pay the bills; we have stopped paying into our pensions ... we poured every single penny of our life savings into the punitively high mortgage in order to bring down our outgoings.

They have never missed a payment.

There are worse situations than that, such as those involving people who have lost their homes. There has been a devastating impact on tens of thousands of people. The Government, the Central Bank and the banks say it is disgraceful, outrageous and a scandal. It is all of those things but it is more than that. It is not just a scandal, it is a scam perpetrated by those at the top of the banks upon their own customers in a very conscious way. Bertolt Brecht said that bank robbery is an initiative of amateurs and that true professionals establish a bank. That is what happened here. It has happened repeatedly in this country over the past several decades. Scams, robberies and cons have been perpetrated by banksters on ordinary people.

We are told that the banks are going to apologise and come back and it will all be sorted by Christmas. However, one has to consider what went on. It was not an accident. It was not by accident that the banks all decided at the same time that people would not get the tracker rates to which they were entitled. It was a calculated decision by those at the tops of the banks in order to lower the size of their tracker loan books. It is a decision that must have been taken by senior management and appears to have been taken in a co-ordinated, calculated way that indicates the existence of a cartel or conspiracy between the banks. It points to the need for a criminal investigation into both those aspects. When asked about the seeming cartel nature of what happened, the Central Bank last week said it was a question of culture, that all the banks have the same horrific culture, which they probably do, and therefore all happened upon the scheme at the exact same time. That stretches belief and unless such culture operates by telepathy whereby they all decided to implement this scam at the same time, it raises very serious questions. A criminal investigation into the defrauding, scamming and conning of bank customers is needed.

We are told it will all be sorted by Christmas but I am sceptical of the good faith of the banks. Members of the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach were told by the banks over a year ago that it would all be sorted by Christmas 2016. If the banks can avoid having it sorted, they will.

The Minister is now threatening to use our ownership of AIB and Permanent TSB, for example, if the banks do not resolve the problem. However, the State owns the banks. The process of reprivatisation should never have been started and should be reversed but the State should use our current ownership of AIB and PTSB, such as it is. The Government must take responsibility. It should clear out the boards of the banks and run them in a very different way, as public utilities for the benefit of society, consumers and ordinary people rather than being run on commercial grounds which lead to this type of scam being perpetrated on their customers and society at large.

Up to 30,000 families have had their lives irreparably damaged by the criminal greed, misconduct, arrogance and brutality of the banks. People have endured many types of suffering as a result, including anxiety, depression, years and houses lost and relationships put under intolerable strain. This was done by incredibly profitable banks run by obscenely well-paid executives who got huge bonuses, in some cases while the banks were in public ownership. We now get belated apologies, statements and promises. It is too late for that and, in any case, we do not believe them.

The banks cannot be trusted to deliver. They have made such promises before and have not delivered. Will the redress and compensation that may be paid be adequate? Will it redress the loss and hardships that have been suffered? Will everybody who deserves it get it and will there be consequences for those who imposed this suffering and committed this crime against these families? The answer to almost all of those questions is "probably not" if all the banks are going to have to endure is admonition from the Minister. There needs to be a criminal investigation followed by the prosecution and jailing of those responsible. Nothing less will put manners on these bank robbers or make them believe they will not be able to get away with this in the future.

We know that because this is not an isolated example. It is part of a long litany of crimes, scandals, misconduct and malpractice by the banks. It is happening now in the equally big scandal involving the obscene interest rates of almost double those available in Europe being charged to variable rate mortgage holders. It is pure extortion and profiteering. Other examples are the rotten treatment of distressed mortgage holders and the suffering that has been imposed upon them and the payment protection insurance scheme and its mis-selling to thousands of people. Before that there was reckless lending to developers and irresponsible lending that landed people in massive debt, upon whose properties the banks then moved in and imposed more suffering on the borrowers.

As Fintan O'Toole pointed out, banking culture in Ireland has been shown to be toxic, rotten and profit-ridden since the DIRT scandal and that has been engendered by the two main political parties in this country. That is the point. When those people wrecked the entire economy, what message was sent by the political establishment? It sent out a message that it would bail out the banks, there would be no consequences for those responsible and as soon as the rest of the country had been made pay for the crimes of the banks and bail them out, the State would reprivatise them. Everything the banks have done to holders of tracker and variable rate mortgages and all the victims of scandals in recent years has been to improve their attractiveness to foreign investors because the Government said from the start it was going to privatise them and Fianna Fáil agreed. Why would banks do anything other than what they did, given that was the message that was sent? If the Minister is serious about this, there should be criminal investigations and prosecutions, caps on variable interest rates for other mortgage holders, a closing of tax loopholes that allow banks to pay no tax whatsoever, the sale of the banks back to the private market should be stopped and some control asserted over them in order that they be in public control and can begin to serve the public interest rather than the greed of their shareholders and executives.

This morning Deputy Healy noted the litany of appalling behaviour by key banks and building societies, including the DIRT scandal, the outrageous insurance and unit trust linked mortgage scandal which many people have now forgotten, the full rescue of AIB by the taxpayer in the 1980s and after 2008 the blanket guarantee of the main Irish banks and building societies after years of totally reckless and greedy behaviour by senior bankers up to September 2008. In recent years we have been grappling with the tracker mortgage scandal and the terrible suffering inflicted on citizens and their families who were deprived of funds of between €500 million and €1 billion in this latest appalling scam.

Central to this appalling history was the regulatory capture of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator with the acquiescence of leading Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians, including former Taoisigh, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Deputy Enda Kenny, and particularly in the recent scandal, the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan.

The distinguished journalist Fintan O'Toole recalled yesterday how Mark Hely-Hutchinson, as CEO of Bank of Ireland in the 1980s, tried to implement a code of ethics for his senior staff but when he brought the proposal to the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance, he was ignored. This episode showed clearly the huge problem in Irish legislation in regulating banks and bankers and underlies the often repeated comment of constituents that we hear many times that "there is one law for the bankers and another for the rest of us". They are referring, as the Minister knows, to Part IIIC of the Central Bank Act 1942, which was the result of an amendment made in 2004, so both pieces of legislation were passed under Fianna Fáil Governments.

Section 33AT(1) of the Act outlines the system of administrative sanctions procedure for serious misbehaviour in the banking sector. Part IIIC was inserted into the Central Bank Act 1942 by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004. Section 33AT(1) of Part IIIC provides that no criminal prosecution may be brought against a financial service provider or person concerned in the management of a financial service provider if the prescribed contravention in question has already been the subject of an inquiry under the administrative sanctions procedure which led to the imposition of a monetary penalty.

Like other Deputies pursuing the latest scandal, when I asked the former Minister, Deputy Noonan, last May about this, he told me that where both the administrative sanctions procedure and summary criminal prosecution are available, the Central Bank has the discretion to decide which avenue to pursue. However, he said this does not absolve the Central Bank from the obligation to make a complaint to An Garda Síochána. Deputy Noonan argued that the existence of this legislation effectively means that the "double jeopardy" rule - ne bis in idem - is being applied and declared that he had no intention whatsoever of changing the law. However, it is his refusal and now the current Minister's refusal to bring in serious sanctions that has allowed the current tracker scandal and many other banking scandals to take place.

I was recently contacted by a constituent of mine who is in the pre-2006 cohort of AIB customers affected by this scandal. The young family in question entered into a contract with AIB in 2004 for a tracker mortgage. Three years later they decided to fix the mortgage for five years. At the end of the five-year term, in May 2012, they met with AIB officials to discuss their options and were told, like so many others, that tracker mortgages were no longer available and that this rate was no longer an option for them. They were put on a variable rate. This family, like many others, does not know what positive impact, if any, the various announcements the Minister has made, the October update and the guidelines and so on, will have for them. I urge the Minister to address the pre-2006 mortgages in particular.

I thank Fianna Fáil for tabling this motion and I welcome the opportunity to make a quick contribution to the debate. It is significant that yesterday it was announced that the former Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny, has joined the distinguished Speakers Associates agency of London as an after-dinner speaker at €22,000 a talk. This captures what Fine Gael and to some extent Fianna Fáil - on the occasion of this motion I agree with it - are about, namely, talk and more talk. The banks did this because they got away with it and they knew that the tracker mortgages were good for their customers but not good for the profits of the banks, so they decided they would change that. We hear talk of the culture not having changed. The word is not "culture". That is a misuse of language. What the banks have done is wrong, in my opinion, criminally wrong, and there should be a serious Garda investigation into it. At the very least what we should have from the Government tonight is a serious report from the Central Bank and the Financial Services Ombudsman on what they have found to date, setting out what legislation is necessary if the current law is not strong enough and, if it is strong enough, why it has not been used. However, the Central Bank tells us that moral suasion should ultimately sway the banks to do the right thing and the Financial Services Ombudsman tells us he is very disappointed by the conduct of the banks. These are the banks that we bailed out. We talk about the €64 billion as if it were monopoly money and the blanket bank guarantee on 30 September and so on.

I have one minute left and I would like to use it on behalf of those people who have lost their homes, their health and, on occasion, their lives because of the absolutely criminal behaviour of the banks. A serious question must be answered about the role of the public interest directors on these banks. What are they doing? A serious question must also be asked about the banks themselves, two of which we substantially own. They have done this in our name, but I say clearly that they have not done it in my name. What they have done is criminally wrong. I ask exactly what Sinn Féin has asked. Deputy Pearse Doherty has asked at the very least for a weekly report on the progress being made by the banks. I ask the Minister for a written report on the progress of a Garda investigation into what appears to be out-and-out criminal activity and theft. Not too long ago the Taoiseach, when he was the Minister for Social Protection, ran a campaign on the sides of buses asking people to come forward with information on people cheating the system. Perhaps the Minister could run a similar campaign now on all the buses throughout all the cities for the benefit of those who were excluded from tracker mortgages when they were entitled to them or put on the wrong rates, asking them to come forward. Why does the Minister not run such a campaign if the Government is genuinely serious about tackling what is being wrongly described as "culture"?

I commend Deputy Michael McGrath on tabling this motion. We have not one damned thing solved today. Banks have come out apologising. One bank has identified 4,300 overcharged customers, another bank 3,000. The one with 4,300 has said it can solve the matter before Christmas. Another bank has said it will endeavour to find solutions for 1,000 customers before Christmas and that by June 2018 it expects to have this sorted. Now we see who is calling the tune. We see that the banks are doing it the way they like it and that they will give payments of €50,000 to people who have completely lost their houses. Who will be the arbitrator in all this?

I believe emergency legislation needs to be introduced. A retired High Court judge should be appointed. If the banks are to decide, that will not solve the matter and will not put things right, including the mental torture these people have gone through. Not alone that, but we also have a major problem when we hear this evening that there are 1,800 bank staff who are also on these trackers who could not open their mouths because they were afraid of losing their jobs. That must be sorted as well. There are also 300,000 more people on variable rates around this country paying exorbitant interest on their mortgages and the banks are still getting away with this. They seem to be calling all the shots and they are not accountable. I firmly believe that if something were going this wrong in any other walk of life, special investigation units would have been called into the sector, and this should have been done already in this case. We need to bring in legislation rapidly to make sure these people are accountable.

I wish to raise one other matter I have mentioned a few times previously. A person rang me this evening to tell me that a receiver has moved in on a debt of €30,000 and will basically put them out of their land. These people would be able to pay if the debt were sold on at the rate it was sold on to some of these vultures that are now moving in on debts. I ask the Minister to do one other thing. People need a new beginning. We need to put a fund together-----

The Deputy needs to give other Deputies some time.

-----for sustainable loans.

I am sharing my time with Deputies Danny Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath. What is euphemistically known as the banking culture which allowed this scandal to happen is a failure to distinguish right from wrong. It is a failure to distinguish honesty from dishonesty, and ethics is at the core of this issue as well as a lack of standards and a lack of compassion. These are perhaps very old-fashioned ideas but they go beyond sharp practice into the realms of fraud, illegality and persecution.

It is an abuse of power - financial power. It is, in fact, financial terrorism. Banks which were on their knees several years ago and were bailed out by the taxpayer have now inflicted this torture on customers, bleeding them dry due to greed and abuse of financial power, inflicting huge human cost, both emotional and physical.

These were boardroom decisions which have to be implemented by somebody. Where does the Financial Services Union stand on this issue? Were its members involved in applying dishonest boardroom decisions and forcing customers to pay more for their mortgages or sell their homes? The Minister's statement made no reference to accountability, responsibility or criminal liability. Tracker mortgages are not the only issue on which banks abused customers. Many customers were pursued for a residual debt, having sold their property on the insistence of the bank. Many were not informed that such a sale did not clear their debt and they are being pursued for outstanding debt which they cannot clear. To add insult to injury, they are facing the prospect of having this debt sold on to vulture companies.

The Minister referred to the Central Bank carrying out the largest review in the history of the State yet the Central Bank did not uncover any financial illegality in this review. I believe the Central Bank and the Department of Finance should consider introducing an alternative banking system, that of a community banking system along the lines of the Sparkasse model which has operated successfully in Germany for many years. This model is locally focused on the community, has low interest rates and is not for shareholder profits, with any profits reinvested back into the community. Why are the Department and the Central Bank so lukewarm on this issue? Is it because they want to protect the dominant position of the banks? There is a responsibility on the Minister to seriously address the community banking issue and embrace it as an alternative model to commercial banks, which are abusing customers repeatedly. A community bank, publicly owned and focused on its community, would have the benefit of supporting the fabric of a community and, if it was based on the post office network, would ensure the survival of that network.

If what happened in this country over the last number of years happened in other jurisdictions, there would be a lot of fire brigades out and a lot of places burnt because people in other countries would not tolerate something like this. It has been happening continuously and is caused by the banking system we have and the bankers we have.

I have a few questions, like other Deputies. When did the last Government get to know about this, given it was highlighted here in the House? What did the last Government do about it when it was highlighted? I believe nothing was done. It is not clear how many mortgage holders are involved and we do not know how many people have lost their homes. We are only getting to know bit by bit, drip by drip. How many families have been separated because of this debacle? When bills and financial troubles come in the door, love is not long going out the window. I can tell the Minister that. How many families have been separated, upset and driven apart forever by this scandal? How many mortgage holders have committed suicide? The banks have been disgraceful in the way they have blackguarded honest, hard-working people. What did the Central Bank do, given it is supposed to be in charge of our banks? It did nothing. Where is the regulator and what was he doing? The last regulator landed us in trouble before this.

Community banking works well in other countries, as Deputy Harty said. Why not consider it here? How do banks propose to compensate people? Will they buy houses for the people who lost their houses wrongly? When will they do this? What amount would compensate their loved ones because of this outrage? Apologies are no good. People have to be brought to task for this. There is no doubt there was collusion between managers and former managers. It was not the bank buildings which orchestrated this criminal policy. Those responsible must be brought to account immediately and the Minister for Justice and Equality has a role to play in this sorry debacle.

The banks have been blackguarding people going back to the early 1980s. Look what they did to the people with foreign bank accounts. They advised people to put their accounts under foreign addresses but the banks then squealed on them, and they were faced with massive bills. I will give one example. A man telephoned me one night when I was coming home along a lonely road, and he said: "Danny, they are looking for £90,000 off me but I will not give it to them." I said to him that he would have to, but what happened? That man committed suicide that night, before morning. He made up his mind that he was not going to give it to them. That is what the banks have been doing and there is no accountability. I am asking the Ministers to do something. They should get the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner to round these people up and bring them to account because they know who they are.

Unfortunately, we have all listened to such stories, as have the Ministers. If they had any heart, they would have dealt with this long ago. The Minister announced today what he is going to do and not do. I hope he had a nice time with the bankers and with all the sweet cake he had in the last couple of days. I said yesterday that bank robbers at one time used to come in with guns to rob the banks, and we had Securicor delivering money and it was often attacked, shamefully. Now, the robbers are inside, deep in the caverns, inside in the boardrooms. Our public interest directors are a total waste of space and time. I asked the question of the Minister's predecessor and he would not tell me what their role was. They have no role, only rubbing fat butter into the sow's you know what. That is what they are doing with the banks - tickling them.

In 2008 and 2009 Mr. Jerry Beades of Friends of Banking Ireland and other colleagues came to the finance committee and told it what was going on. Who was sitting on the committee at that time? It was the current Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar. However, he stands up here now with a frenzy of despair and crossness, and showing a little bit of anger about what is happening. He knew about it. Deputy Noonan knew about it. They all knew about it but they let it go on and they turned a blind eye until it was exposed.

We hear of the staff being bullied, in particular the ones who had tracker mortgages. It is disgraceful intimidation, racketeering, call it what you like. The regulator should have been sacked and should have paid back his pension but he walked off. The present regulator is doing nothing. The Central Bank is totally inept and uncaring. In the whole system, there is no regulation to cover banking. We all know that.

There is also what is going on down in the courts in regard to the level of repossessions. There is the whole army of receivers and thugs who go out and terrorise people, tearing up their homes due to court orders granted by county registrars who have no role to play, given they are not judges. The genie is out of the bottle. The Ministers have been found out. They should hang their heads in shame. What is being perpetrated on the Irish people is a form of genocide. It is financial terrorism, as Deputy Harty said. It is terrorism, getting phone calls at all hours of the night, like the man Deputy Healy-Rae mentioned, getting threatening letters, intimidation, getting the cold shoulder-----

The Deputy's time is up.

Meanwhile, they are not giving a bob to anyone.

Please, Deputy. I understand that your colleagues took your time.

I am almost finished. Shame on them. The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, has known this since 2008 and 2009. He was told it by Jerry Beades, but no, he is a pariah, do not talk to him-----

Come on, Deputy. The time is up.

They did not want to be seen walking around with him. I want to praise Deputy McGuinness for the work he is doing in the finance committee. Somebody has to expose them and bring this out. This trickery and robbery should have been gone with the Black and Tans.

I wish to share time with Deputy Healy, by agreement.

Until senior decision makers are held personally liable for the decisions they make in the banks, we will not see a change in the culture. There is a really serious problem that keeps on coming up over and over again. This was either a dialogue that was had between the banks, or within the banks, that was essentially a conspiracy to defraud, or else there were 20,000 mistakes. If there were 20,000 mistakes, one would have to question whether these people should be running the banks.

There is another aspect to this that I would want the Government to look at, namely, the whole area of financial management.

AIB launched its IPO knowing about the tracker issue. It would have needed to have set aside the money that it would owe in compensation. It ought to have quantified exactly how much that would be. Bank of Ireland is selling shares knowing that the issue of compensation is coming down the line, but it has not set aside any amount. Is there a contingent liability there? One must also question where the accountancy profession was in terms of capturing some of these issues. The same profile of things is happening time and again.

Are the banks delaying the sale of houses that were repossessed because of the tracker issue? I would like the Minister to ask them about this. Each bank has to know what its liability is because it would have needed to go through cases file by file to identify those in question. There is no reason that the banks cannot press a button today to repay what was taken out of people's accounts and follow that up with compensation. They have the bank details, so it could be done immediately. They should not leave the most difficult cases for last, but that appears to be what is happening. The more vulnerable people are, the more difficult it is for them to use the law. The law exists, but if people have no money and are under the cosh, they will not be able to find someone to take on a legal case. We must recognise that a collective approach is required.

I wish to ask about local authorities. If compensation is paid, it may put people beyond the threshold for HAP, rent assistance or inclusion on local authority housing lists. This serious concern must be considered. If someone loses a house and gets €40,000 in compensation, that amount will initially have to be used to pay rent. It is not enough to buy another house and the person's credit profile will be bad. It is important that this issue be considered comprehensively.

The banks did this with tracker mortgages because variable interest rates made them money. This happened under the watch of the Department of Finance and the previous Minister for Finance. It was done to ensure that banks returned to profitability, but there is no one in the Chamber - at least, I hope there is not - who would want the recovery of the banks to happen at the expense of making people who were already vulnerable even more so.

We have the highest variable rates in the eurozone. This issue also needs to be tackled head on. It has become so expensive for people to service their mortgages that their family finances are often not being spent on some things. At times, this even includes food.

The naming and shaming of banks is important. One cannot reward good behaviour or punish bad behaviour without specifying who is involved. That specification needs to happen. We should not hold back on saying which banks are bad and which are putting their hands up and tackling the issue.

At lunchtime, the so-called Independent Alliance, including the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Finian McGrath and Halligan, stated that a criminal investigation was needed into the banks at the centre of the tracker mortgage controversy. They also stated:

The allegations of fraud which have been made more than merit a top-level criminal investigation. [...] The time for talking is over. The banks were given plenty of notice that this was a problem they had to solve. Now it is obvious that a criminal investigation is needed to get to the bottom of the scandal.

They were all over the media at lunchtime. They were on RTÉ television, radio, the newspapers and social media. By mid-afternoon, they had disappeared. Where are they tonight? Where is the Minister, Deputy Ross, tonight? Where is the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, tonight? Where is the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, tonight?

They are not here. They have gone into hiding. They have run away and abandoned the people who have been devastated by the banks in this tracker mortgage scandal. Obviously, the Taoiseach has put it up to them and they have backed down. Shame on the Independent Alliance. Shame on the Minister, Deputy Ross, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Halligan and Finian McGrath.

During Leaders' Questions on 5 April, I told the Taoiseach of the day, Deputy Enda Kenny, that the tracker mortgage fraud needed to be investigated criminally and that he should send in the Garda fraud squad. I did not have a whistleblower. I just had a healthy suspicion of senior bankers, backed up by the experience of 30 years of banking scandals and rip-offs like the DIRT scandal, the Ansbacher accounts, bogus non-resident accounts and the destruction of this country by the banks during the boom-bust period. Like every other Irish citizen now knows, I knew that the banks and senior bankers had no moral compass.

This tracker mortgage fraud is a major scandal that requires criminal investigation. In April, I asked the then Taoiseach to make a formal complaint to the Garda and to call in the fraud squad. I told him that any delay in ordering that investigation could lead to the destruction or alteration of relevant records with a view to senior bankers blaming subordinate and junior staff. Shamefully, he refused to call in the Garda or protect the tracker mortgage holders. In fact, he was protecting the banks.

Six months later, we now see the extent of the massive fraud - 20,000 mortgage holders, 15 banks and €1 billion. It is clear that this scandal involves collusion by the banks in a systematic and widespread fraud. It is a scandal that has to be addressed by a criminal investigation by the Garda. Until and unless senior bankers are made subject to normal criminal fraud law, we will have victims like the tracker mortgage holders time and again.

Next is Deputy Butler, who I understand is sharing time.

Yes, with my colleagues.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I compliment Deputy Michael McGrath on his work to date and on tabling this motion calling on the banks to identify fully all customers affected by this scandal, restore all affected customers to their tracker rates instantly and pay redress to all victims without further delay. Unfortunately, the lingering sense is that we are not getting the full story. To see the banks putting their own interests ahead of the 23 families that have been made homeless and the 79 buy-to-let properties that have been lost is outrageous. They are putting themselves ahead of the financial and mental strain that families and others have endured. This is an outrageous scandal. The State was to the fore with the banks and implemented the bank guarantee to save them, yet this is their answer. They are financially penalising ordinary people.

I have a tracker mortgage. I do not know whether I am on the wrong rate. Like many thousands of others around the country tonight, I am wondering whether I have been wronged for the past 22 years. Unfortunately, the ordinary people who are getting up early in the morning, going to work and trying to pay their mortgages are being financially abused.

It is an absolute scandal. This evening, the Minister told us that the banks had admitted to overcharging 14,600 account holders. Nevertheless, the banks have had to be challenged every step of the way to get to this stage. We need and demand a solid explanation as to why 11 institutions acted in precisely the same manner, which beggars belief. It is in no way acceptable that we are here almost two years on with few of those affected having got their own money back. All 14,600 of the account holders we know about require redress and compensation, but only 3,300 have received it to date. The effect of the scandal on mortgage holders lives in incalculable. In many cases, no amount of compensation will be adequate to address the suffering caused to these people, many of whom lost their homes.

While it is frightening to read about the scale of the tracker mortgage scandal and the thousands who have been impacted, the human cost that is visible when one scratches away the numbers of euros is so much more frightening. Peoples homes were unjustifiably repossessed and the health of mortgage holders was affected. People delayed having families and their hopes and dreams of a better life were completely dashed.

We have put down this motion to support the thousands of people who were denied tracker mortgages in this banking scandal. We have heard the first-hand accounts at our finance committee meeting and subsequently in the media. Great credit is due to Deputy McGuinness and his committee for raising that. Credit is also due to Deputy Michael McGrath who pursued the issue. It reflects very poorly on the banks, however, that the finance committee had to invite people to appear and bare their souls in an effort to get redress. It also reflects very poorly on the Government's oversight that it did not pick up on or act on this.

We are hearing different numbers - 13,000, 14,000 and many more. Our motion calls on the banks to identify fully all those people who were impacted by their white collar crime, restore their tracker rates straight away, and to pay compensation and redress without further delay. The banks must ensure that people who lost their homes are adequately housed. There must be accountability. It is essential. The Minister cannot allow those who made deliberate decisions unashamedly to steal people's money month after month and year after year to go unpunished. I ask all Members to support our motion. Tá géarghá déileáil leis an scrios atá déanta ag na bainc maidir leis na morgáistí. Táim ag iarraidh go mbeadh an Rialtas níos gníomhaí agus go dtabharfadh gach éinne tacaíocht don rún.

This is not the first time the State has had to respond to wrongdoing by banks. In fact, it is not the first time that the State has had to respond to banks taking money from customers without their permission. We must recognise that there is great fury about this for two reasons. First, many of those who have these mortgages are people who bought their properties at the height of a property market and found it difficult enough to make the payments anyway in the orthodox fashion. Furthermore, fraudulent charges were put atop their ordinary mortgage repayments. The second reason people are so irritated is that banks have got away with too much for too long in this country. Even people with short memories will remember that the banks were bailed out by the State. People with long memories will remember the ICI issue. It is the combination of the vulnerability of the people involved and the repeated behaviour of the banks that is causing so much outrage.

The response of the Central Bank has been far too slow to date and it has been too timid in dealing with the banks. We need a lion tamer but instead we have a shepherd, which brings me to the role of the Government. The Government has been far too tame. I read the front page of The Irish Times the other day that the Minister said unless the banks respond to this and get their act together, they will be named. It is of no consequence to the banks that they will be named. The Minister must reflect on the fact that something similar to this happened back in 1998 when National Irish Bank was identified as having overcharged its customers. In response, the Minister for Finance in the then Government went to the High Court and had inspectors appointed. As a result of the appointment of those inspectors, a clear, independent examination by external accountants took place into what was happening in the banks. We got a report in respect of it. We also got those inspectors to ensure there was a proper overview of the compensatory scheme introduced by the banks to ensure that people were given redress.

Unfortunately, this is not the most recent example of the failure of banks to fulfil their obligations to society and the State. This morning, the justice committee considered Deputy Michael McGrath's Mortgage Arrears Resolution (Family Home) Bill. Representatives from the Insolvency Service of Ireland attended the committee and informed us that the legislation dealing with personal insolvency which was put in place in 2012 has not resulted in constructive engagement from the banks. It is about time the Minister got tough with the banks and realised they only respond to pressure, not to nice language.

In the limited time I have to speak, I commend my colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, not alone for bringing this motion before the House tonight, but also for having pursued this issue so vigorously over the last number of years along with a number of other colleagues.

I am not sure whether the Minister is aware of the reaction among journalists on social media to his press conference this afternoon. It was one of incredulity to the response of the Government to the actions of the banks. My constituents have already let me know by way of email and text message that they share this incredulity. There are events which change the affairs of men and this is one such occasion in the lifetime of this Dáil. After the crash, it became clear that the banks had been a law unto themselves. The absolute scandal is that they clearly still are and appear to be beyond the reach of the Minister and regulation. The general feeling among journalists on social media is that banks are going to get away with it again. This is journalists not the public. Nothing the Minister said appeared to address that. That contrasts vividly to what I heard as I listened to Sean O'Rourke's radio programme this morning. Paddy O'Gorman, who does such great social service with his vox pops with people coming in and out of the Dublin courts, had an interview on the show with a person facing prosecution, fines and a suspended sentence for failure to pay her television licence fee. She had very justifiable reasons given the circumstances in which she was living in the fact that she was cash-strapped.

People out there are wondering what has to happen for this Parliament to be sovereign and for the Government to govern with impact. Institutions appear to be beyond the reach of the State and Parliament. What has the Government learned the last decade? People are in disbelief. While the priority for the Government now is resolution and repayment, the priority in future must be to bring the people who made these decisions to account. The citizens of this country have to know that its laws apply equally to every citizen and that every institution is subject to rules and regulation. If those are breached, institutions should not simply be named and made to repay, they should be subject to the law and punished accordingly.

The way the banks have dealt with this issue is wrong and it is unacceptable to me. The behaviour that caused this issue was wrong and the behaviour in responding to its resolution has failed to reflect the appreciation the banks should have of the difficulty, hurt, anxiety and trauma caused by their actions to their customers and our citizens.

I am unambiguously sending out the message on behalf of Government and through the statement we made earlier that we will make use of powers and of choices available to us to allow, and to force, this issue to be resolved. During the commentary on this matter over recent days, weeks and beyond, I have heard talk of "cohorts", "consumers" and "citizens", but we are talking about people's lives, which have been affected by this not just, as has been acknowledged by all Deputies, in the context of their financial affairs, which would be bad enough, but also in respect of their health and the well-being of their families who were dealing with difficult times in their lives anyhow and which the entire country was going through at that point. All of this was compounded by the behaviour of our banks in respect of tracker mortgages.

The statement I made today, which, of course, the House will evaluate over the coming weeks and months and beyond, is not only to support the Central Bank in its work to ensure its probe into the practices it is investigating can continue and reach a conclusion but also to ensure as this is happening that those customers who deserve to have their money paid back are paid back. What the banks have done today, some of which they have done already, is lay out publicly timelines in respect of repayments, numbers of customers and timings. I wish some of those timings were different. I wish all banks were able to make repayments to their customers, those we represent and serve, with timings that reflected the urgency of this issue, but the banks, with the Central Bank working on this matter, outlined certain times this afternoon. What I will do is hold those banks accountable to those times. They have made commitments on numbers of people and on when this work will be done by, and I have communicated directly to them, particularly to the banks in which the State retains a share, that if certain timeliness are not met and if the Central Bank reports back to me to say that its expectations have not been delivered against, then I will look at options available to me under law, and as a shareholder in a number of them and I will take further action.

I would like to emphasise three points regarding the statement I made earlier today. The first relates to the role of the Central Bank in dealing with this matter. The bank is the independent regulator of our banking sector and it is imperative that its role in this process is understood and that its role in the timing and setting of redress is recognised by the Government and, indeed, by the Oireachtas. What I have done with the framework I described today is say that the Central Bank, which is committed to doing this work, will outline by the middle of December if any further customers or families are affected by this issue. It will then communicate its decision on this matter directly to the banks and to me. It is vital that this happens because we know of all those families who have dealt with, and are dealing with, the worry, upset and huge difficulty of this matter. What needs to be confirmed is whether any further families are at risk in this regard. The Central Bank has outlined how this will be done in terms of work it will do by December and further work that may need to be done by March.

The second point I want to outline is options that will be open to me, and powers that are available to me, that I will use if I need to on foot of the advice I will receive from the Central Bank. I outlined three of them in my statement and I will do so again. First, I will look at ensuring, through legislative means if necessary, that there are further requirements on the banks in terms of statements and reports they make back to Government. Second, there are options potentially open to me as an activist shareholder in a number of banks to deal with this matter in terms of resolutions and the consent that banks require of me in respect of matters within their business. The third issues is bankers' pay and future remuneration. These are all issues, the stance on which I will evaluate in the context of whether this matter is resolved and progress made.

This leads to the third point I would like to emphasise, which is the role of culture and attitude in respect of this issue. Culture for me is not a way of getting around the individual role and the individual consequences that people within banks may face. Culture for me is not a way of second-guessing the potential culpability that the Central Bank may establish regarding institutions and individuals. However, this is about the response we must make to where our banking sector and our banks stand now. How we have got to this point is unacceptable, but what is as of much concern to me is where we now stand in the resolution of it. Some banks have responded in a different way to this matter from others, but what is common to all is the time it has taken to resolve the matter, that the fact this issue has arisen in the first place is unacceptable, and that the banks' customers and the people we represent in this House have suffered in a way that I believe to be unacceptable. I have mandated the Central Bank to come back to me with a general assessment not just of this matter, because this has afforded me an opportunity to look at all the matters relating to tracker mortgages and how issues have or have not been dealt with, but also the broader issues associated with this in respect of how our banks currently conduct themselves. That is why that requirement is there and the Central Bank will report back to me and the Government on this matter in the first half of next year.

I acknowledge Deputy Michael McGrath in tabling the motion, Deputy McGuinness as Chairman of the committee that has been looking into this matter, and all the members of the committee, including Deputy Pearse Doherty, who have raised this issue. They have focused, understandably and correctly, on how people feel who have gone through this experience, the difficulty they have had to deal with, and the huge financial distress at times of difficulty. I understand that and I understand what has happened to people who have been wrongfully treated. What I have outlined today is not just words. I believe words have a role when I as Minister for Finance say I do not accept the behaviour of our banks not only in causing this issue but also in resolving this issue. That is not a standard that is acceptable to me. As a shareholder and as a member of Government, this is something that must change further. What I also have done is to have outlined actions in this regard. These are actions that I can only take when the Central Bank, which is the independent regulatory body and which is charged with overseeing the sector, completes its work on the numbers of customers and the action that needs to be taken. The bank sets the policies in this area, but I am clear on the principle relating to this area. People who have been wrongly and unfairly treated, and there are too many, must be treated in a better way. The statement I have made, and the actions I have outlined today, identify how the Government will, I hope, reflect the views of the House on this matter and will support the Central Bank in the resolution of this matter.

I thank my colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, for tabling the motion tonight and for relentlessly pursuing the issue, not for a number of weeks or months but for a number of years. In fairness, Deputy Pearse Doherty on the Sinn Féin benches also did so. The reason we are here tonight, however, is that Deputy McGuinness and the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach facilitated those who had their money, mental well-being and lives robbed by the banks for the past number of years. Tonight I thank them for their bravery in coming forward with their stories. It is because of their bravery that the Government has belatedly come to deal with the issue.

The Minister's statement tonight is despicable. It is so weak and lacks courage and conviction. He spoke about supporting the Central Bank, the regulator, which itself said that it hoped it would bring moral pressure on the banks. The banks do not understand morality. This Government over the past number of years has facilitated the bank every inch of the way. The former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, invited the vulture funds to come in and buy property at reduced rates. The insolvency service is framed to suit the banks. The Government is blocking the legislation that would ensure we had fair variable interest rates. The Government facilitated the banks. AIB will make €1.2 billion profit but will not pay any corporation tax for 20 years due to the legislation brought in by the Government.

The Minister says to name and shame. We know the banks and the culprits involved. Unless there is accountability and real consequences for those who committed white-collar crime, which is what it is, justice will not be served.

Any trust that was starting to be restored in our banking system has been shattered. How did 11 institutions end up doing the exact same thing? Are citizens expected to believe that it is a coincidence? It is quite likely, as people expect, that we will have no evidence to support that suggestion when this process ends. However, it is what people believe and they will always believe it.

These banks put their hands into people's pockets, took their money, kept it in their accounts and, in some cases, repossessed their homes. They put thousands of people under severe financial pressure, resulting in mental and physical stress, illness and the breakdown of families and relationships. It is difficult to see how adequate compensation could ever be offered to any of those people. The State is the largest stakeholder in some of these banks and institutions, yet they have not even owned up to those who are affected. They have not reinstated the tracker mortgages, refunded the money owed, or given compensation. It is difficult to see if there is any remorse whatsoever.

People had to detail their mental anguish in public to get this Government to act. Were it not for the actions of Deputies Michael McGrath and John McGuinness at the committee and in this Chamber, it seems the Government would never have acted. Ministerial reaction to this has been extremely slow. The Ministers were forced to show their hand and the response this evening is quite lethargic.

It appears to people that the Government is extremely uncomfortable coming down hard on the banks and the Government will find it hard to shake that perception.

We need accountability. We need people to stand up and be counted and for them to take responsibility for their actions. There must be consequences for those actions. Unless there are consequences at the top for those that instigated these actions, there will be no proper compensation or justice for the people affected.

I, too, add my voice of compliment to Deputy Michael McGrath on tabling the motion and to Deputy McGuinness, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. Last week, the committee heard from a number of people who were wrongly refused mortgage tracker rates by their banks. We heard testimony from people who suffered strokes, nervous breakdown and severe mental anguish over a period of nearly ten years as a result of what can only be described as gross financial criminality on a national scale. People's lives have been permanently damaged in the wake of a scandal which has persisted over many years. Meanwhile, the banks involved have done everything in their power to avoid honouring legal, financial and moral responsibilities. The time for meaningless updates and hollow apologies is long gone. The Government must apply the political pressure needed to ensure that the Central Bank ramps up its efforts at every turn and pursues with venom the 11 institutions which acted in precisely the same manner in relation to this scandal.

The motion calls on the banks to identify all customers affected by the scandal, instantly restore all affected customers to their tracker rates and to pay redress and compensation to all victims without further delay. It calls on the banks to provide adequate housing for those who have lost homes as a result of this scandal. Further, the motion calls on the Government to threaten a vote against the board of directors in each of the banks in which the State has a shareholding. On Tuesday, the Central Bank published its second update in 2017. The number of customers affected now stands at 13,000. Those figures are set to increase, however, and are expected to rise to 20,000. Some experts have speculated that the number could eventually rise to 30,000.

The effects on mortgage holders living in this situation is incalculable and in many cases no amount of compensation will be enough to allow them to come to terms with the pain and suffering caused. Many have lost their homes and some have lost their lives. The additional stress and suffering caused by the banks' refusal to take responsibility is shocking. If we cannot ensure that these banks provide appropriate redress and compensation and ensure justice for the people who have suffered so badly due to this needless scandal, we must ask serious questions of ourselves as public representatives. Bankers and white-collar criminals who did wrong doing need to be brought to task and justice must be done.

I recognise in the Minister the decency and moral compass that he has applied to the issue. However, he is dealing with thieves. These are people who ignore regulation and whom the Central Bank could not control. They are responsible for the deaths of people by suicide. They are responsible for the loss of 100 homes. The figures the Minister gave today do not add up. The number is 14,400 according to the Minister, with only 3,500 being repaid by AIB, which predicts that the numbers in that bank will double. Representatives of KBC came before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach and refused to answer the questions. They refused to give us the information. Those from the Central Bank spoke about moral suasion. One cannot impress on the banks anything to do with morals because the culture is so incredible and they have now passed it on to the next generation of bankers.

On 4 July 2013, the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan said in answer to Deputy McGrath that the ECB could choose to fly people to Dublin for supervisory purposes in relation to the Bank of Ireland and AIB. He admonished Deputy Pearse Doherty for his genuine and sincere efforts on behalf of the customers affected.

Where is the ECB now? Will the Minister for Finance insist tomorrow morning on each and every bank, at their own expense, appointing an ethical officer who will report regularly to the Central Bank? Given that it does not deliver it, will the Minister take responsibility for customer protection from the Central Bank. It has allowed this to happen. The Central Bank has stood idly by and the Minister would not be here were it not for the testimony of the brave individuals who came forward. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, says that it is a matter for the Central Bank and, in the context of the amendment he has tabled, has taken Government out of it. The Government should stand up and take responsibility. It should be as brave as those who were robbed and had to pour out the details of their lives in public to get their rights.

The banks in this country have robbed individuals and families of everything they have, including their dignity and their lives. They are the thieves in this question and the Minister, after today, is driving the getaway car for them. Shame on the whole lot of you.

I thank every contributor to tonight's debate and acknowledge the work of every member of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, led by Deputy McGuinness, Deputy Pearse Doherty and others. The overall message from tonight's debate is that the nightmare has to end for thousands of mortgage customers, many of whom are dealing with this issue and carrying the loss for approximately ten years. I do not trust what the banks are doing. When I consider banks that have already examined the issue, KBC, PermanentTSB and Bank of Ireland examined it prior to the current investigation. Across those banks, more than an additional 6,000 customers have now been found to have been wrongly denied their tracker interest rate or put on the wrong rate.

That is the record. That is the reality.

The banks are not quaking in their boots tonight following the Minister's statement and intervention. The extra steps the Minister threatened are a puff of smoke. They are not serious enough to deal with this issue. I asked every bank that appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach had it investigated how this happened. If I were the chief executive of a bank that was having to pay €100 million or €200 million I would want to know how it happened. Not one of them has conducted an internal investigation. They say their focus is on correcting the issue and stopping the harm. That is rubbish. They have not looked back because they know how this happened.

I and my party will stay the course. We will hold the Minister, the Government, the Central Bank and certainly the banks to account. The litmus test of this issue will not just be whether those affected get justice, get their money back and get their compensation immediately but also whether the questions of how this happened in the first place, who is accountable, who is responsible and will they be held responsible, are answered.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“notes that:

— in January 2017, the Dáil passed a motion which included a call on the Central Bank of Ireland to impose a deadline for the banks to conclude their investigations and to put in place a redress and compensation scheme;

— mortgage rates charged by banks in Ireland, in particular variable rates, continue to be among the highest in Europe;

— the main Irish banks are now highly profitable again;

— problems regarding how the banks were treating tracker mortgage customers were highlighted well before 2015 and at least 7,100 mortgage accounts were affected by tracker related issues across a number of banks up to 2015;

— in October 2015, the Central Bank of Ireland launched an industry-wide examination of tracker mortgage related issues;

— the Central Bank of Ireland has confirmed that, as of the end of September 2017, around 13,000 mortgage account holders had been wrongly denied their contractual right to a tracker rate of interest or were put on the wrong tracker rate;

— the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland confirmed to the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach Committee on 19th October that the number affected is almost certain to increase further;

— some banks involved in the Tracker Mortgage Examination have informally threatened the Central Bank of Ireland with legal action;

— as a direct result of being denied their rights, customers lost the ownership of 102 properties, including 23 private dwelling homes and 79 buy-to-let properties;

— the actions of the banks on this issue have caused untold damage and suffering to the people affected, and in many of these cases, no amount of compensation will be sufficient to repair the harm that has been done to people's lives;

— the emotional and harrowing testimonies of the customers, who have highlighted the impacts on their health and mental health as a result of the banks’ actions, have been pivotal in bringing this issue to light;

— according to the Central Bank of Ireland, two lenders have failed to properly identify 'populations of affected customers’ and therefore have not fully completed Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination within the required time;

— the lenders’ initial redress and compensation proposals fell materially short of the Central Bank of Ireland’s expectations and the regulator had to repeatedly challenge the banks to improve their proposals;

— as part of this examination, the Central Bank of Ireland has commenced enforcement investigations against Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank Ireland DAC, and is preparing two further enforcement investigations, with possibly more to follow;

— only 25 per cent of impacted mortgage accounts have to date received redress and compensation; and

— the approach taken by the banks to date is not acceptable to this House and has inflicted further unnecessary pain and hardship on those affected;

calls on the banks concerned to:

— formally apologise to the customers concerned;

— commit to correcting the overcharging as a matter of urgency and place all relevant mortgage accounts back on tracker mortgage rates without delay;

— fully and comprehensively complete Phase 2 of the Tracker Mortgage Examination process without any further delay;

— identify all customers affected by the tracker related issues without any further delay and to publish these figures in their entirety, once they are finalised;

— communicate the up-to-date position to all mortgage holders in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— pay redress and compensation, at a level that is at a minimum in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations, to all affected customers without delay;

— provide a detailed explanation on how this scandal occurred in the first instance;

— cease all repossession action where the mortgage concerned is in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— pay adequate compensation to those who lost their home as a result of the banks’ actions to enable them to purchase an appropriate replacement home; and

— publish a weekly update of the position for all customers affected in the scope of the Tracker Mortgage Examination outlining the numbers redressed and compensated and to communicate this report to the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach;

calls on the Central Bank of Ireland to:

— provide a firm deadline of no later than 1st January, 2018 in which the Central Bank of Ireland expects all affected accounts to be identified and corrected and for all redress and compensation to be paid;

— use the full statutory powers at their disposal to ensure that the lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay, by putting them on the correct rate of interest and by paying redress and compensation in line with Central Bank of Ireland expectations;

— conduct a thorough investigation, in respect of each lender in the Tracker Mortgage Examination, as to how this tracker scandal occurred in the first place;

— investigate whether there was any co-ordination, formal or informal, across the industry in the handling of tracker related issues;

— report circumstances where it obtains information that gives rise to a suspicion that a criminal offence may have been committed by any individual to the relevant authorities including An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; and

— ensure all customers are put back onto the rate applicable as per their contract; and

calls on the Government to:

— meet with the Central Bank of Ireland and all banks affected and inform them that these practices are unacceptable and have to be corrected without further delay;

— provide whatever resources that are necessary to the Central Bank of Ireland to complete the Tracker Mortgage Examination;

— ensure that all statutory powers available are utilised so that lenders meet their obligations to the affected customers without delay;

— introduce legislation, on request from the Central Bank of Ireland, to confer whatever powers are necessary to allow the Central Bank to complete its work and to enable it to impose deadlines for banks to both redress and compensate customers;

— implement the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission's 2005 Report on Multi-Party Litigation;

— legislate so that individuals in financial institutions can be held accountable for their actions;

— consider:

— all options to impose sanctions on banks that fail to address this issue in a comprehensive and timely manner; and

— voting against the reappointment of the entire board of directors in respect of the banks that the State is a shareholder of;

— strengthen consumer protection laws for bank customers and provide extra powers to the Central Bank of Ireland and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission;

— introduce a help line in the Central Bank of Ireland and the Financial Services Ombudsman to assist bank customers in relation to tracker mortgages; and

— reaffirm its commitment on the pay cap in place for banks and the ban on bonuses.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.