I understand Senator Mansergh wishes to make a comment at the commencement.
Business of Joint Committee.
I wish to make a declaration of interest. I have a family member who works in lower middle management in AIB and there are some family members, although not myself, who have what one might call to moderate shareholding in either or both of the main banks.
We have that recorded.
I must also declare an interest in that I have a family member who is on the staff of AIB.
I have shareholding in three banks.
I have shareholding in three Irish bank institutions and I am a customer of AIB and two other banks.
I also have accounts in both these banks.
Before proceeding to the main item on the agenda, there are a number of matters I wish to dispose of.
With regard to correspondence, a letter was sent to me as Chairman from Liam Reilly of IFSRA stating he would be happy to meet with me at any time to discuss the role of the new body in more detail. I propose to meet Mr. Reilly informally on behalf of the committee after the summer recess. Is that agreed? Agreed.
We have received an early notification of a meeting in Brussels in October requesting the chairpersons of all budget committees of national parliaments to attend. The general rapporteur for the 2004 budget will outline the main guidelines of the European Parliament's approach to the 2004 budget. The meeting will also provide an opportunity to outline the committee's priorities for the forthcoming budget. I propose that I and/or another member attend the meeting on behalf of the committee. Is that agreed? Agreed. Costings and sanction will be arranged by the Clerk in the interim and they will be put before the committee at its next meeting.
The Committee of Public Accounts received a thank you letter from Mr. Edward J. Kearns for forwarding his letter of 16 June to this committee. Is it agreed to note that? Noted.
I received a letter today from Loretto Byrne regarding the residential institutions redress issue. I suggest we note the documentation and forward it to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science for its attention. Is that agreed? Agreed.
If you consider it appropriate, Chairman, I have only had sight of the documentation this morning. It amounts to substantive correspondence with the committee. I would be concerned that it would not be buried or lost within the committee system over the summer recess. The lady who has corresponded with us has real and substantive matters to be addressed.
I understand that, but they are not of a financial nature involving the Department of Finance. The substantive issues come under the remit of the Department of Education and Science.
Is that your judgment, Chairman?
It is. Is that agreed? Agreed. This morning I received a letter from Oxfam Ireland indicating it would like an opportunity to give a short presentation to the committee on Irish levels for overseas aid in advance of the budget, due later this autumn. At our last meeting I referred to a group called Debt and Development Coalition and I propose we meet a delegation from the group at our meeting on 4 September. Later that month, the Minister for Finance will attend the annual general meeting of the World Bank and it would be pointless for the group to make a presentation to the committee after that. I also suggest that a delegation from Oxfam Ireland be invited to attend the meeting on 4 September.
Has Oxfam Ireland requested a meeting with the committee? Many other organisations are doing similar work and they should be included.
The letter from Oxfam Ireland is on behalf of the non-governmental organisations.
Are they concerned with debt and development issues?
They specifically refer to Ireland's commitment to meet the target of expenditure of 0.7% of GNP on aid by 2007.
If we are to invite them to attend, does it not also make sense to invite representatives of Irish Aid to attend to outline their views on spending in this area?
We have agreed to meet the group called Debt and Development Coalition.
That is an NGO, but Ireland Aid, or whatever is its new name, is the Government agency responsible for spending in this area. It would be appropriate if before we met the organisation to which you have referred, a delegation from Ireland Aid was to make a presentation of an overview on spending levels and targeted increases for next year. Otherwise the meeting will be held in a vacuum.
That is fine. I suggest that on the morning of 4 September, we deal with all those matters. In the afternoon we want to meet some of the mutual building societies and credit unions to continue the kind of discussions we will hold later at this meeting.
The Department of Finance is as much involved as the Department of Foreign Affairs in writing off debt in this area. Indeed, it has greater dealings than Ireland Aid and it may wish to send some officials to the meeting.
We will try to arrange to have the relevant people in attendance.
The Minister for Finance holds the Irish chair at all the Bretton Woods institutions, which deal with the debt. In view of this, Senator Mansergh is right to suggest that officials from the Department should inform us what their contribution will be. That will be before the September meeting of the World Bank.
I am conscious of the huge number of organisations involved and that more are being drawn in, such as the Department of Finance. This is not something that can be dealt with in one day. I would not like to spend four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon meeting different organisations in this venue. It is not the most efficient way for us to do our business. We should leave it to the Chairman to organise the schedule and perhaps he could spread it over a few days. There will not be a huge level of participation if there are long sessions because members have other commitments.
We will discuss that and liaise with the convenors for the different groups.
The next item was discussed at the previous meeting, namely, the establishment of a sub-committee to deal with the strategic management initiative. We indicated previously that we would proceed along those lines. However, the question was again asked at that meeting of where stood the sub-committee and if it would be a backwater. Some reservations were expressed. If members are content to proceed with the sub-committee, we will formally sign off on that. If that is not agreeable, perhaps we could set aside a special meeting every two months for the full committee. I wish to obtain views on this from committee members.
I may have been the member to have initiated the discussion on this matter. I have no overall preference for a sub-committee. I am interested in ensuring that the issue of the strategic management initiative is dealt with by the committee. It has not been dealt with in 12 months. It is part of our remit and I am open to any way that achieves that. The sub-committee is one suggestion. There is another suggestion, which the Chairman made, that the committee set aside special meetings to deal with the SMI. I would go along with that as well. The main issue is that we should have an opportunity to discuss the customer base and that we should have some set formula for doing that.
I propose that we appoint someone, such as Deputy Finneran who raised the issue, to formulate a possible programme of work and we could then decide whether it should be dealt with in full committee or by a sub-committee. If a Deputy or Senator were to do that, we would know the options.
I raised the point on the previous occasion as to the suitability of a sub-committee or the full committee continuing to take responsibility or, in the absence of having done so, to begin immediately to do so. Deputy Richard Bruton's proposal is worthy of support. We need a focused outline of the scale of work to be undertaken and the likely number of meetings involved in order that we can make an informed judgment of the suitable formula with which to approach this work. I look forward to that at the earliest opportunity.
I wish to bring this matter to a conclusion. Perhaps we could discuss the key items and return to the issue of whether we choose to establish a sub-committee or leave it to the full committee. Staff resources will be available to us in the Houses to assist us in our work on the SMI.
With the consent of the committee, I will liaise with the Chairman on a possible work programme and refer back to the committee.
Is that agreed? Agreed. The last item with which I wish to deal is scrutiny of European Union legislative proposals. Nothing has been referred to the committee since our previous meeting. However, a proposal is outstanding that the committee decided to scrutinise. We also decided that, to avoid the possibility or the necessity of the Department of Finance attending a meeting, a briefing note would be made available to the committee by the Department. This was only received this morning. I suggest we place it on the agenda for the committee's next meeting. In the interim, members will have a chance to study the documentation. Is that agreed? Agreed.
A revised timetable for today's meeting was circulated with the agenda. Its purpose is to allow us to move smoothly during the course of the day and give all the people we have invited a reasonable time to make a presentation and answer questions. Is that agreed? Agreed.
The next item is a discussion with the consumer-director of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, AIB, Bank of Scotland, Permanent TSB and Bank of Ireland concerning deposits, customer charges and interest rates. We will commence with representatives from the IFSRA.