Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

We are a little ahead of time but the Clerk has confirmed that we are entitled to proceed. Question No. 52 is in the name of Deputy Doherty, who is not in the Chamber. Does another Deputy wish to put the question?

Deputy Doherty will be here in a minute. He thought Question Time was recommencing at 7 p.m.

Deputy Farrell may propose a suspension of business to allow time for Deputy Doherty to get here.

My colleague has just arrived.

Financial Services Regulation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

52. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the status of the legislation providing for a senior executive accountability regime and other provisions; the planned scope of this legislation across financial services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17477/21]

I apologise to the Ceann Comhairle for the delay. I thought this business was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. My question relates to the status of legislation to introduce a senior executive accountability regime, SEAR, and other provisions. This legislation is much awaited. It is more than three years since the Central Bank argued for such provision to hold senior people in financial entities to account. We in Sinn Féin have argued for it for much longer. The Minister has committed a number of times to publishing the legislation. When will we see it?

As the Deputy is very well aware, the Central Bank has recently reprimanded Ulster Bank and Davy for regulatory breaches that resulted in substantial fines being issued. I wish to recognise the extensive work undertaken by the Central Bank in achieving those results. The bank already has extensive regulatory powers to investigate and impose sanctions where there are breaches of financial services legislation. The introduction of a SEAR will complement those existing powers, ensuring that the Central Bank has the additional powers necessary to provide appropriate regulation.

The legislation required to provide for a SEAR is complex as it gives rise to a number of constitutional issues. Careful consideration has been given to the proposals due to the need to ensure they are robust and can withstand legal challenge. Officials from my Department have been in ongoing and detailed discussions with the Central Bank and the Attorney General's office on the detail of the proposed Bill.

The SEAR will require firms to set out clearly the roles and responsibilities of their senior executives, including the production of management responsibility maps documenting key management and governance arrangements in a comprehensive and accessible way. This should ensure there is clarity as to who is responsible for what. The legislation will include conduct standards for individuals and firms, giving the Central Bank additional powers to enforce obligations on financial services providers, and relevant individuals working within them, with respect to expected standards of conduct. The legislation will further enhance the existing fitness and probity regime and break the participation link to facilitate the Central Bank in taking action against either a firm or an individual where a contravention of legislation occurs.

As work on the various aspects of the legislation is advanced, I will consider how the SEAR will be rolled out across the various sectors of the financial services industry. I expect that the most significant financial sectors will be encompassed by the legislation.

I intend that the heads of the Bill will be drafted and presented to the Government before the summer recess. That is subject to the Attorney General's advice and the adequacy of the safeguards included to the protect the constitutional rights at stake.

I thank the Minister. Does he know he gave the same speech two years ago? We are talking about holding senior executives in banks and financial institutions to account but the Minister has just given the same information that he did two years ago. The problem is his party, Fine Gael, has been part of the Government for the past ten years. The Minister has been part of that Government since 2013, which is a hell of a lot of time in which that party could have enhanced the individual accountability regime or strengthened the Central Bank's toolkit for holding individuals to account. The Central Bank sought this power as far back as December 2017 to mirror British legislation introduced in 2016.

In April 2019, two years ago this month, the Minister committed to having that Bill published and available to the Dáil soon after the summer of that year. Two years later, we still do not have the legislation. What has caused the delay and why has the Minister not been able to deliver on the commitment he gave to the House two years ago in April 2019? Is it just that the Government's priority in holding individual senior bankers and those in financial institutions to account does not meet the required standard?

The party of which I am a member is the one which introduced, with its colleagues in government at the time, the Central Bank regulations of 2014 and there is sufficient legislation available to the Central Bank to allow it take action against individuals if it believes a case is merited. The inference of the Deputy is that legislation is not in place to allow action be taken against individuals but it is if the Central Bank decides such action is merited. Of course, it is the same Central Bank with the same powers that have been granted by this Government, the previous Government and the one before that, which has levied such significant fines on financial sector companies over the past number of weeks in recognition of the gravity of concerns and misbehaviour with which those companies were involved.

The legislation is in place to allow action to be taken. Particular concerns relate to Articles 37 and 38 of our Constitution, as well as other articles, including Articles 40 to 45, inclusive, which concern the balance between the rights of the individual and the matters we are debating.

If the legislation exists, why would the Government introduce new legislation? The reality is the legislation is not robust enough. The Minister knows, I know, and he should not make a fool of the public, that the reality is the Central Bank cannot go after an individual until the firm in question has been found guilty. How does the Minister know this? His predecessor, another Fine Gael Minister, Michael Noonan, got a letter from the Central Bank Governor in 2015, six years ago, saying there was a lacuna or hole in the law that allows senior people to lie to the Central Bank without any reproach because the firm has to be found guilty first. In that case it was the insurance industry. This is why in the case of Ulster Bank individuals cannot be held accountable until the examination finishes. We know Ulster Bank is winding up its operations.

The Minister gave a commitment two years ago that this Bill would be published. Before that he gave other commitments and he has given commitments since. We still do not have legislation to hold senior bankers to account. There is not one party in this House, including the Minister's party, that believes the legislation is not warranted. The Central Bank has sought it for nearly four years and it is in place in Britain. The problem is the Minister's party and Government have not prioritised it. Is that not the fact?

We are giving it priority. Fines have been levied against companies for unacceptable behaviour. Action has been taken, for example, by the National Treasury Management Agency in dealing with the Davy matter and it demonstrates the seriousness with which the State has taken such matters, including the behaviour I condemned and which has been the subject of very heavy fines from the Central Bank with the legislation made available to it by the past three Governments.

We have very strong and robust legislation in place and the Central Bank has the ability to take action against individuals. It must also consider whether sanctions apply to the company. I have explained what is the difficulty and the delay being caused. Some of it can be explained by the fact that we were putting in place a Government across last year but that is not to justify all the delay. When the delay is resolved, we will have robust legislation to add to the strong powers already in place.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

53. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Finance the additional financial assistance available to businesses to keep their employees working from home; if he has plans to change or amend such incentives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15406/21]

One of the main consequences of the current pandemic is that many people have been forced to work from home. Will the Minister explain what measures the Government will make available to these employees who have been forced to work from home, including financial supports to convert an area in the home to a proper working space? Will the Minister confirm what measures will continue to be made available in future?

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has introduced a series of supports to help businesses deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures are specifically targeted at supporting businesses negatively affected by the pandemic in retaining their employees on payroll and include the employment wage subsidy scheme and its predecessor, the temporary scheme.

With regard to employees working from home, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is driving implementation of remote work with the national remote work strategy, Making Remote Work, which was published in January. This strategy includes the commitment that officials in my Department will consider the economic, financial and organisational implications arising from the experience of remote working during the pandemic and that the tax strategy group will review the current tax arrangements for remote working in respect of employees and employers.

As part of the standard tax regime, businesses may claim a tax deduction for expenses wholly and exclusively laid out or expended for the purposes of the trade or profession. This may include reasonable reimbursement of expenses incurred by their employees in the course of working from home, including additional heating and electricity costs. The Revenue Commissioners have confirmed that PAYE workers using their primary residence as a workplace during Covid-19 restrictions qualify as eworkers for the purposes of a revenue statement practice allowing employers to pay up to €3.20 per day to employees in respect of working from home expenses without deducting income tax, universal charge or PRSI.

With regard to the provision of additional supports, I am conscious of the need to consider wider equity concerns for both employers and employees. We propose to consider those through the tax strategy group process that will yield the publication of papers later in the year.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I have been in contact with many people, including couples, working from home and the common theme is that while working from home, they require more supports and they are not happy with the supports they are getting. These people have needed to adapt certain spaces from which to work. Many people forced to work from home do not have access to reliable broadband, which is absolutely necessary for the vast majority of people working from home. I know one person who must wait until near midnight each night in order to send emails and work with other files because the broadband is so congested during peak hours. This is not acceptable and the Government must get real with the rolling out of the national broadband plan. Working from home is likely here to stay and the Government must help people like those I describe to work from home.

We are absolutely committed to the roll-out of the national broadband plan and I accept the Deputy's point that one of the very big questions undermining the ability of those who now must work from home in doing that work is the matter of broadband speed and connectivity. We are working hard to deliver that plan. Of course, the main issue we have is public health guidance that prevents some of the work being done. I hope as we move through the year we can commence the work again.

The Deputy referred to cost concerns. In many cases, the employer has a responsibility in the management of and help with some of those costs. The employer has a duty to their employee and I know that in many cases that responsibility is being taken seriously and discharged. There is a provision in our tax code, as I described, and we will look at the matter again through the tax strategy group process.

I thank the Minister again for his reply. In fairness, when I ask a question, he always gives an honest answer. People have space in their homes, including garages, spare bedrooms or in other locations. Would the Minister consider giving an adaptation grant to help people? If a person is waiting to reclaim tax, it could take a long time.

People are struggling at the moment. One can get an adaptation grant of maybe €4,000 or €5,000 to do up a garage. It is a snowball effect. Apart from making life more bearable at home, it creates jobs for people trying to get off the pandemic unemployment payment. Will the Minister consider giving a one-off lump sum to each person working from home?

In a lot of instances, I think the Deputy is right that these matters are better dealt with through the use of grants or payments rather than through our tax code. The difficulty of doing it through our tax code is if somebody has a low level of income and, therefore, pays a low level of tax, the ability of the State to help with expense can be weakened because they are not paying a lot of tax in the first place. That is why grants can, in general, be more effective in dealing with some of these matters. This will be something we will have to consider when we are clearer on what work practices will look like when we are in a better place in having suppressed the disease. There is an issue of equity to be considered, namely, that the employer has a responsibility and, in some cases, a duty to pay some of the cost involved as opposed to it all being borne by the taxpayer. That is what we need to tease out.

Insurance Industry Regulation

Pearse Doherty

Question:

54. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the engagement he has had with the insurance industry to ensure that any reduced cost of claims as a result of the newly adopted personal injuries guidelines will be passed onto consumers in the form of lower insurance premiums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17478/21]

On 6 March, the new personal injuries guidelines were adopted by the Judicial Council. They will cut the cost of awards by, in some cases, 60%. They will significantly reduce the cost of claims for insurance companies. What commitments, if any, has the Minister received from the industry to date that it will pass these savings on to customers? How will the Government measure those commitments?

The Government is committed to bringing about meaningful insurance reform, as is reflected in the programme for Government. The action plan for insurance reform contains 66 actions across several departmental policy areas. Its implementation is overseen by a Cabinet subgroup on insurance reform, which met last week. Achievements to date include the adoption of personal injury guidelines by the Judicial Council, which has significantly reduced many common injury award levels, and the creation within my Department of an office to promote competition in the insurance market, headed by the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming.

The Deputy will be aware that last week the Minister for Justice introduced amendments to the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill to implement these guidelines. As such, they will be in place ahead of schedule and many claims should shortly begin to be assessed by both the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, and the Judiciary using these rather than the book of quantum. This should mean more consistency and bring more certainty to claims for insurers and thereby underscore the benefits of using PIAB. This in turn should reduce the cost of claims, particularly legal fees. In addition, I hope the improved insurance operating environment will help to attract new entrants into the market, thereby increasing competition.

I reiterate the strong expectation of the Government that insurers responding to this key reform in a positive and generous manner need to do this by passing on savings to consumers and businesses. The insurance industry has previously committed to reduce premiums in line with lower award levels and I and the Government will hold it to account on this pledge. The Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, is meeting individual insurance companies in relation to this and we will track our progress through the data set from the Central Bank on public liability and employer insurance.

If I renew my motor insurance tomorrow morning and am unfortunate enough to be in a soft tissue accident, the award paid out would be about, on average, 60% less. Therefore, the insurance company, as of my renewal tomorrow morning, should be charging me a lower premium. Is that factual? We can look back to when representatives of the insurance industry were lobbying for these awards to be cut. They told us to a person that if they did not reduce insurance premiums for motorists in the region of 15% to 20% after having awards cut by 50%, then politicians should ask hard questions. These awards should be reduced right now. There is no need for delay but there is a need to be able to measure this. That is why I am disappointed that the Government was going to vote against an amendment to this legislation I put forward last week that would allow the Government to measure what the awards would be if the legislation was not introduced giving effect to the guidelines and to measure what the premium would be. That would make sure insurance companies passed on, pound for pound, all the reductions that have been secured.

The Government put such effort into the passage of the guidelines and gaining agreement to their implementation because of the commitment the Government has to reducing the award levels. We expect this, in turn, to have a significant effect on premiums and costs, which we accept are critical and difficult issues for many holders of private insurance policies and, in particular, employers at the moment.

We will track this through the work the Central Bank will do. It published the very important data set that allowed us to better understand things that were happening in the motor insurance sector. It is best placed to do this work. Now that these guidelines are in place, while respecting the independence of our courts, the point of having the guidelines is our expectation that they will begin to affect decisions made by our judges in cases in front of them now.

I wish the Minister would join me in calling for these premiums to be reduced right now. There is no reason premiums are being charged at yesterday's or last month's rates when awards were 60% higher.

Does the Minister know what AIG, Axa, Allianz, Zurich and a number of other companies have in common? They are the largest six companies in Ireland and they are also the largest six companies in Britain. Does the Minister know what the difference is? When Britain reduced the awards for whiplash, they introduced legislation in 2018 which made the companies prove to their central bank, the FCA, that every cent was passed on to consumers. Last week in this Chamber I attempted to do the same thing. Will the Minister explain why the six largest companies in Ireland have to provide that information to the central bank in Britain for the reduced awards that took effect in 2018 there, but he believes they do not have to provide the same information to the Central Bank here? The Minister says he will rely on Central Bank information but it does not have a key piece of information which I tried to legislate for last week but the Minister's party and Fianna Fáil opposed it.

The Deputy is standing up here and one of the main things he is thinking about is how he can generate accusations about me and imply the Government is not taking this seriously. We brought in this legislation and made these changes. We welcome the fact that the Judicial Council has issued guidelines that are consistent with the Government's aim of reducing the level of awards made in our courts. I respect the role of the Central Bank and the work it does in gathering data on this. It is best placed to do this. We will then look at the impact of the work the Government has been doing and which has now been reciprocated by the Judicial Council to deal with what is, we accept, a really serious issue. I reiterate that I expect that as awards change in our courts, so will the cost of insurance. That will take account of the serious progress made by this Government on a serious matter.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Mattie McGrath

Question:

55. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will place a quantifiable monetary value on the direct social and economic costs of the ongoing lockdown strategy on the Irish economy; if he will outline its highly destructive impacts on unprecedented levels of unemployment and the collapse of the small business sector; and if he will ensure that taxpayers will not be forced to pay for same through higher taxes after the pandemic has passed. [16757/21]

Will the Minister provide a quantifiable monetary value of the huge economic and social costs this pandemic, the Government's attitude and lockdown have had for the people of Ireland?

It is the pandemic that is causing the harm the Deputy refers to, not the Government. We are acutely aware that the pandemic and the necessary public health measures introduced to control the spread of the virus have had a huge impact on our economy and society. Recognising this, the Government has acted decisively and on an unprecedented scale.

Almost €38 billion in fiscal support has been provided to households, businesses and our health service. This represents approximately one fifth of national income. Those who have lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic have been supported through the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, with a cost of more than €6.5 billion euro to date. We have put in place a comprehensive suite of policies to assist businesses. The main support scheme, the employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, and its predecessor, the temporary wage subsidy scheme, TWSS, have cost the Exchequer more than €5 billion to date. The Government has also introduced the Covid restrictions support scheme, CRSS, to provide debt direct financial support to closed businesses. Those businesses that are not eligible to avail of this scheme are further supported by the small business assistance scheme. This is in addition to a wide range of supports provided through Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, and local enterprise offices.

With regard to the economic cost, the way in which we measure our domestic economy - modified domestic demand - declined by 5.4% last year, with domestic-facing sectors bearing the brunt of the impact. Employment is at the heart of our society and economy, but last year unemployment soared to a rate of approximately 19% recorded in 2020. Currently, just over 450,000 people are in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment.

I agreed that those assistance packages were put in place. I welcomed them. I disagree with the Minister that it is the fault of the pandemic, however. It is the Government's reaction to the pandemic and the way in which it has dealt with it. I want to outline the destructive impacts and unprecedented levels of unemployment, which the Minister has mentioned. I mention, for instance, the collapse of the small business sector. The Minister has to be real here. Where are we going to go the longer this lockdown goes on? We are in the longest lockdown in Europe. The WHO said lockdowns do not work. We know that yet the Minister continues to continue with them blindfolded.

Up until recently, the Minister said there would not be extra taxes. Recently, however, he said that there would be extra taxes after this pandemic. Will the hard-pressed businesspeople and taxpayers - working people - have to pay all this back? The Minister will have to get help and forbearance from Europe and, indeed, a rollover and deferral of the debt, because it is going to be massive. I believe there were many other ways of tackling it without simply locking everything down and keeping it locked down. That has failed. Other countries have proven they could do it in other ways but we had to be the good boys in Europe. We need forbearance from Europe on this.

What other countries have proved that the use of public health measures and the restrictions on mobility and businesses opening do not work? What countries have proved they have alternative ways of tackling this disease? Name them.

I heard him say a moment ago that the WHO said lockdowns do not work. I would love to hear the Deputy's argument for that in a moment, given that the WHO has been advising about the need for social distancing and the really big and dangerous effects of this disease that we know so well. We will get out of this and deal with the cost, however, by being able to safely reopen our economy and society. If we were not putting these supports in place, the Deputy would castigate me for not doing it. We are putting them into place. They will have consequences for the future but we can deal with most of those consequences through our economy growing again.

I said that I acknowledge the supports. I am referring to the strategy. The Minister blamed the pandemic but it is the Government's reaction to it and the prolonged lockdown. The Government had no roadmap last night either. Entire swathes of our community and society were never even mentioned in the press conference last night or since. Look at the whole arts industry and what is involved there. The impact both economically and socially on our people is devastating and will be unquantifiable for decades to come. That is why I said there are other models of dealing with it. We have to live with Covid-19 and open up and let our people work. Let them have hope of work. They have been closed now for more than 12 months and are struggling to get back with no mercy from the banks.

Will the Minister bring this to Europe and ask for forbearance for Ireland? I know the Minister has a role in the Eurogroup over all the different countries. We need to be able to offer hope to our people and allow them back to work to recover some semblance of the businesses they had. Is there another agenda behind this? Does the Minister want to break them all and leave them impoverished and broke forever? Other countries have exited lockdown and allowed people to work. Our construction industry is closed. Everything is closed.

Other countries have exited lockdown after being in lockdown for periods as well. Those are the facts. I asked the Deputy if he could give me an example of a country that has not used lockdown measures to suppress the disease. I did not hear the answer in the statement he made back to me.

I do not know what the Deputy is suggesting regarding what agenda he feels I may have. The only agenda I have is to play what part I can in reducing the loss of life in our country, saving jobs where we can and getting ready to create jobs again in the future when we are able to reopen our economy safely. A plan was outlined by the Taoiseach yesterday evening. We talked about what we are seeking to do week by week and then what to do as we move into May. That plan is there. Of course, we cannot deliver in a single go everything that so many parts of our economy and society want because we do not want to unravel or harm the progress we are making in suppressing this disease and implementing a vaccination programme.

Banking Sector Remuneration

Pearse Doherty

Question:

56. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the grounds on which he gave consent to a bank (details supplied) to acquire a company without the excessive bank remuneration charge applying to the bank being applied to the company; his views on whether he has set a precedent with respect to future acquisitions by bailed-out banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17479/21]

On 2 March, AIB reached an agreement to acquire Goodbody stockbrokers for a sum of €138 million. The Minister will remember that in 2010, AIB sold the same entity, that is, Goodbody, for €24 million. Under the State agreement with the bank, AIB not only had to consult the Minister regarding the acquisition of Goodbody, but crucially it required the Minister's consent to put pay packages in place that circumvent the bankers' bonus levy, which is a levy that is passed in law by these Houses. Will the Minister clarify how he reached the decision? Why did he judge it appropriate? How does it comply with section 531AAD of the Act?

I believe this is a positive outcome for the Irish economy. It is important have a competitive and vibrant stockbroking sector in our country to help to ensure Irish companies and employers can access the funding they need to finance their future growth plans and employ more people in Ireland, particularly as we exit from Covid-19.

It is also a particularly welcome use for Fexco, which as the Deputy knows is a really important employer in the south west of our country. The proceeds it receives from this transaction will help it to continue to grow and innovate in financial services and maintain employment in the region.

This also offers a really good opportunity for AIB to deliver on its need to diversify its revenue in a low interest rate environment. The addition of Goodbody offers opportunities to the bank to be able to broaden the financial offerings it has in the life, pension, wealth and asset management sectors in addition to enabling Irish companies to access a wider range of services.

As the Deputy can appreciate, the standard remuneration arrangements in stockbroking businesses are very different from those that pertain in a retail and commercial bank such as AIB. Reflecting this, the bank sought my consent for the continuation of the current remuneration arrangements in Goodbody. I agreed to this but it is being done in a manner which ring-fences Goodbody from the rest of the AIB group and ensures ongoing compliance with the Government policy on bank remuneration. It is important to stress, therefore, that there have been no changes to the Government's policy on remuneration. Post deal, provisions at Goodbody stockbrokers will be completely ring-fenced from the rest of the AIB group, preventing any question of a breach of the Government's current salary cap and the pay restrictions that apply to the bank.

Three issues are at play regarding this, that is, how this position interacts with the law, whether it is politically appropriate, and the precedent it sets for other banks. On the first point, I have read the legislation, which specifies that excessive bank remuneration charges will apply to employees of any institutions that were given financial support under either the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 or the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000.

AIB was one of those bailed out by the Irish taxpayer the tune of €20.8 billion. There is, therefore, no question the bankers' levy applies in law to AIB. The question now is how AIB has dodged the levy by acquiring Goodbody stockbrokers and how the Minister's consent to this arrangement - this financial engineering - was possible given the requirements of the law and the fact it is now fully owned 100% by AIB.

The second issue is whether it is appropriate at all given the actions of the banks and the stockbrokers in recent times, from the tracker mortgage scandal to Davy, as well as the fact the taxpayer still has to recoup the €10 billion pumped into AIB to save it. There is no doubt that this is about eroding the bankers' levy. How can this decision to undercut be deemed appropriate by the Minister who gave his consent to this process when so much remains to be resolved?

This is about the future of three Irish companies, namely, AIB, Fexco and Goodbody. This is a transaction that is good for a large employer and financial service provider in our country. For Fexco, the original owners of Goodbody, this is a transaction that is important and beneficial for its future. The future of Irish companies matters to me.

The Deputy referred to the fact that we still need to regain the money put into AIB at the time of the last crisis which our country had to endure. Parts of how that bank has the opportunity to become more valuable in the future is through the provision of the kind of services that Goodbody will be able to deliver when owned by the AIB Group. Of course I got the advice of the Attorney General on the legality of what I was doing. That advice indicated to me that what I was doing was of course legal. I made this decision because it is good for three Irish companies and for those who work for them.

That is not what this is about. This is about allowing for bonuses to be paid to an Irish-owned institution that was bailed out. AIB will own this entity 100% but AIB was bailed out with nearly €21 billion.

Will the Minister enlighten the Dáil as to what is the average bonus paid to a senior wealth manager in Goodbody? Would he be surprised, for example, if I told him it was €400,000 to €500,000? Is that what the Minister has signed off on or is it something less? Will he tell us what he has signed off on because the law states that bonuses cannot be paid to entities bailed out by the Irish taxpayer, particularly an entity that still owes €10 billion to the Irish taxpayer from that bailout? What are the bonuses that the Minister has allowed in Goodbody? If he has nothing to hide and thinks everything is great and upfront, will he tell the people what are the average bonuses for the most senior people in Goodbody?

Bonuses paid to Goodbody were paid by a company that the State at that point did not own. What I am doing here is allowing remuneration in Goodbody to continue as it was in the past. I am allowing AIB to continue to be subject to the policy in place relating to bankers' pay. It is really clear what is happening.

I do not have available to me now the information regarding the level of Goodbody bonuses for last year. I did not bring that into the Chamber. At that point the Government was not involved in, or AIB did not own, that company. Why all this is being done is because it is good for three Irish companies.

I want to ask Deputy Doherty a question. Is he against this transaction happening? All that matters to Deputy Doherty is that he can get Facebook content so he can ring up his pals either in Berlin or Belgrade to get them to send out material about what we are doing here. What I am doing is making decisions that are right for Irish companies. I am trying to put in place a positive future for, in particular, indigenous Irish companies. I have answered the question. I know Deputy Doherty will be speed-dialling his buddies in Berlin to generate whatever material he wants. This is about Irish firms. Are you in favour of a transaction happening that is good for Irish companies?

(Interruptions).

The Minister should speak through the Chair.

(Interruptions).

The Deputy is eating into other Members' time. I ask both the Minister and the Deputy for their co-operation.