We now turn to the main business of the meeting, which is the No Consent, No Sale Bill. At last Thursday's meeting, a first draft of the report on the committee's detailed scrutiny of the Bill was circulated, with a request from members to submit written comments by noon yesterday, 8 July. On Friday, an amended version containing the views of the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, IMHO, and certain other changes was also circulated. A further draft, which attempts to incorporate the comments of members has now been circulated. We now have to deal with the matter. The Minister is present with us. We have substantial amendments to the Bill. For the information of members, we had invited in a representative of the Garda to deal with insurance fraud. The witnesses are waiting outside. I hope we will deal with the issue at 2 p.m. because our meeting must finish by 3.30 p.m. We may not be able to deal fully with this matter but we must make a start on it because of the amount of information we now have.
No Consent, No Sale Bill 2019: Discussion (Resumed)
Who have we invited in?
We invited the Garda Commissioner because at last week's meeting we presumed that today's meeting would just involve signing off on the report but that is not the case because substantial changes and amendments have been introduced. The Garda fraud unit was due to come in at 1.30 p.m. The witnesses are waiting outside. I am told that it will be 2 p.m. or a little after when we commence that part of the meeting. We can begin our consideration of what is before us now. The meeting itself must finish at 3.30 p.m. or 3.45 p.m. because this room is booked by another committee. We will start proceedings.
To clarify, are we starting in public or private session?
We are in public session.
I will start with a general remark. It is something I wish to say and I do not care whether it is in public session or private session. I do not think the way the committee is handling this issue reflects well on it. I do not believe it is satisfactory and I do not believe the procedures have been fair. A hard copy of the draft report was circulated at our meeting on Thursday morning. A soft copy of that draft was issued later on Thursday morning, then on Friday at about 4.15 p.m. another email landed in the inbox with a significantly revised draft and a deadline of noon on Monday for amendments to be submitted. I do not believe that is a fair timeline for all of us who rely on staff and the goodwill of others to get our work done. I do not believe the time for amendments was adequate. The report itself looks rushed. I have done my best to add key amendments, as I see it. Coming here today I was aware the deputy Garda commissioner was lined up to come in but I was not sure of the sequencing, and whether we would stick at this until we finished it. I was fearful that the deputy Garda commissioner would not be brought in over the course of today's meeting. We should have a general discussion on where we are going with this, procedurally. With all due respect to everyone, we are not going to get very far in 20 minutes. What happens when we park the issue for the day?
As Deputy McGrath is aware, I am in the hands of the members and they made all those decisions last week. I have no difficulty if the Deputy wants to change the decisions that were made, but that is up to the members.
If I could respond to that, to be fair, I remember when the draft report was circulated on Thursday at the meeting and Deputy Pearse Doherty gave some initial feedback about what was missing. He made some fair points. I tried to tease out how those would be added in. It seemed to me that there would be an addendum and that we could start preparing amendments to the first draft of the report, but the second draft is significantly different. I had to park the first draft and start looking at the second draft and making amendments to it.
If Deputy McGrath wants to do it differently, he should propose what he wants and then members can agree or disagree. I do not mind.
First, I appreciate the work of the secretariat in ensuring the witnesses who were before this committee were included in the scrutiny report, because it is not our words, but those of the witnesses who came before us, that make up the scrutiny. The first draft contained only the views of the Department and the Central Bank, so I welcome the efforts to ensure the witnesses' core sentiments were captured in the report.
The point the Chairman made is a valid one. There was agreement and unanimity that the report would be circulated and that we would agree amendments on Monday. I can understand where Deputy Michael McGrath is coming from. I naively thought that there was a majority view in this committee that sales to vulture funds should not happen without the consent of borrowers. However, I now see clearly that Deputy McGrath's amendment is about scuttling this Bill. That is what it is. Let us call it as it is. It is about scuttling this Bill and ensuring it does not go through. If the Deputy does not support the principle of no consent, no sale he should say it outright, because the amendment he has placed before this committee is about making sure that this Bill never sees the light of day. It is a stalling tactic. He knows the clock is ticking for this year and he also knows, as do other members of the committee, that banks are lining up many vulture sales of family homes. They are looking to us to act, and I am very disappointed. I was probably naive in thinking, when the principles of this Bill were supported by the majority of the Dáil on Second Stage, that politicians would see that through and allow it to go to Committee Stage where appropriate amendments to address any concerns could be tabled if need be.
I reject out of hand what Deputy Pearse Doherty has said. The aim of the process we are involved in here is to assess the evidence we heard and come to a view on it. The Bill passed Second Stage, and anyone can read the speeches I and others made on that occasion. The purpose of a scrutiny phase is for people to listen carefully to the evidence and test it. We are getting into discussion of the amendments themselves at this point, but as far as we are concerned, this is not a political game. It is about getting the right outcome for the country, for mortgage holders, and for our financial system as well. That is why the evidence that has been given has to be tested. None of the people proposing the Bill should fear their assertions being tested in an independent and time-bound manner. That is what we are suggesting. We are not trying to thwart anything, but given the significance of the issues and potential consequences that have been raised, we want the evidence to be tested. I stand over that.
I have no problem with any evidence being tested. However, I challenge the bona fides of what Deputy Michael McGrath is saying. He should allow this Bill to progress to Committee Stage, with the independent analysis concluded before that Stage in order that we could then shape our amendments. If he wishes to vote against the Bill at that point, so be it. The reality, when one cuts through everything, is that this is a stalling tactic. If the Deputy stalls this Bill for another three or four months, we will run out of time to bring this legislation in. I give the Deputy the opportunity to show his bona fides by allowing this Bill to go to Committee Stage, but not taking Committee Stage until the independent analysis is done. That would show that the spirit of the Bill is being supported, but we could also examine further evidence if need be before we deal with the committee amendments. We could decide at that point if we wanted the Bill to progress to Report Stage. Otherwise, this is nothing but a stalling tactic and an attempt to scuttle this Bill and stop it in its tracks.
I call the Minister.
I am unambiguously against this Bill. I believe it will pose the greatest of difficulties for those who are paying mortgages at the moment because of what could happen to their mortgages in the future, and the rates of interest on their mortgages.
At a time when the economy, small companies and families need credit, including citizens who need credit to buy homes, this Bill, if passed, could have a highly detrimental effect on the ability to supply new rates of credit to the economy at affordable rates of interest. Given the number of times this committee has acknowledged the need for strong, independent regulators, the European Central Bank and the Central Bank of Ireland raise a variety of profound concerns in respect of this Bill and, perhaps most significantly from a Central Bank point of view, indicate that if our banking system was to ever get into difficulty, the passage of this Bill could affect the ability of the Central Bank to support Irish banks in times of difficulty. That is the gravest of issues to be raised in respect of any Bill like this one. It is for all of those reasons that I oppose the Bill, which will not come as a surprise to Deputy Doherty. I want to ensure that people get treated fairly and those who are in debt distress are supported. I also have a duty to people who depend on our banks for credit and affordable mortgages. This Bill does not recognise the need to find that balance.
From a process point of view, I am eager to get the Chairman's guidance regarding how he wants to move this forward. In that regard, I will simply say that if the Government treated any member of the Opposition in the way I believe this committee has been treated in having two different reports issued on one day or if I, as a member of the Government, attempted to treat this committee like that, the committee would be apoplectic with me, and understandably so. We are not talking about slightly different reports being issued. They are materially different and they require materially different amendments that would have very different consequences in respect of what the Dáil could do. For those reasons, I believe this Bill should not proceed to Committee Stage. At the very least, the course of action proposed, namely, an independent analysis of the Bill before it goes to Committee Stage, is essential.
I attended the same meeting last Thursday. My understanding was that it was an addendum. The report we got on Friday was significantly different from the report we got on Thursday. I made known to the clerk of the committee my view that this was not proper procedure. We were told amendments were to be submitted at the same time. In terms of the change in the report, I believe the deadline should have reflected that. I fundamentally disagree with what this Bill proposes but on the procedural side, we required further time. If one reads through the report, one can see it has been changed significantly in various areas. Members were not given sufficient time. Yesterday's 12 noon deadline was grossly inadequate considering the magnitude of the topic we are dealing with. Our role as a committee is to scrutinise issues in great depth. If we are doing a report, careful consideration is required, and if a new report issues, that will require further careful consideration. We have not had adequate time.
To reflect on what has been said by all concerned, members have a short memory because they decided the procedure and process at last week's meeting. They decided they would agree to the timing of the amendments. I undertook to speak to the clerk, add to the report the members already had and issue a draft report. That draft was to reflect the views expressed by two other groups of witnesses who appeared before the committee. I changed my opening remarks in the report because I wanted to change them. Other parts of the report were added to and new parts inserted.
It was up to the members then to take that draft - it is only a second draft - and to decide on the changes that they want. They could come back here today and decide that they do not want to do it this week and we will postpone it until next week. That would have been fine. The reason we are caught in this time issue is because I presumed we were coming in to look at the amendments which I did not expect to be as complex as they are, but given that they are, we do not have the time to deal with it and it is a matter of postponing the consideration of those amendments and of the report itself to another date. The amendments are extensive and need consideration but it is in the hands of the members to decide. They are to decide what to do. If the decision is to postpone this and debate it on another day, which can be tomorrow, after the break, or whenever, the members can make that decision. To break the deadlock and to facilitate the other witnesses who are coming before us, I suggest that we put consideration of these amendments and of the report back to another day.
Apart altogether from what is contained in the amendments or the report, I suggest to Deputy Doherty that we will not be able to consider this today in the short time that we have. It is as simple as that. There was no indication on the day of our last meeting that the amendments to the report would be as extensive as they are. The question is whether the members agree to postpone consideration of the report until such time as we have considered every angle and aspect of that report and the amendments to it? Is that agreed?
It is obvious that we do not have the time to deal with the amendments today. This does not take away from the fact that what is happening here at this meeting is a clear attempt - and Fine Gael has been consistent in this, I welcome the largest attendance ever from that party at a finance meeting here - to protect the vultures and not ordinary people. I nonetheless welcome all Fine Gael members in their attempt to stop this Bill.
That is not correct.
I have never seen five Fine Gael members ever at this committee.
That is not correct. We look after the ordinary people.
We have dealt with issues such as trackers, and insurance-----
We look after the ordinary people.
-----and such matters but when it comes to the vultures, they all row in to try to sink this Bill. They are consistent in that.
Deputy Doherty's comments are not reflective of the facts.
Excuse me, Senator.
What I am disappointed and concerned about is that this is an issue of timing. Deputy McGrath has made a point about independent analysis which could have happened at any time. There is a clock ticking on this Parliament. We all know this, as does the public. There is also a clock ticking for banks. My view is that this should be allowed to go to Committee Stage, we should be reporting, and an independent analysis should be carried out which would be allowed to shape our amendments.
I have made it clear that this Bill is not designed to impact on securitisation. If that is an issue, and if the independent analysis shows that - we have heard this from the Central Bank - it will be dealt with on Committee Stage. Committee Stage is where one allows the spirit of the Bill to go ahead and one then fixes it. I am concerned about timing. There is an amendment here which will scuttle the Bill because of the timing issue but it is fixable if there is a willingness to allow this Bill to go to Committee Stage and concurrently have the independent analysis carried out. We have just finished the scrutiny, having spent months on it, and now people are asking for more scrutiny. If there is willingness to support the concept of this, there is a way forward.
If we are to be practical about this, the House is about to go into recess for two months. If we agree to nothing today, then nothing will happen. No assessment will be done. We will come back in the autumn and will still be looking for an independent assessment to be done. The best way for Deputy Pearse Doherty to advance his Bill is for him and the committee to agree today to have an independent impact assessment done on the Bill, so that over the course of the summer recess, that work can be advanced. That is the most important step that can be taken to ensure that time is not lost.
While I think agreement to send a motion to the House would be a matter for the select committee, even if it did, nothing would happen until mid-September. Let us use that time to agree collectively that an independent economic assessment of the Bill should be done. That is the most practical way to ensure that this issue does not go flat and die over the summer months.
All that has motivated my colleagues and I in attending this committee is to be fair and supportive of all those who depend on our banks. This Government and my party have overseen significant change to reduce mortgage arrears in our country to help those who are in difficulty and distressed with debt. We have overseen a substantial number of restructures in our economy and, quarter by quarter, we have seen a reduction in the number of mortgage arrears. That is our track record and I do not need Deputy Pearse Doherty to impugn it in any way. That is what this party and Government have delivered.
Deputy Doherty is consistent in putting forward ideas that he pretends will solve all difficulties while not acknowledging the substantial consequences of what he is looking to do, which were acknowledged as risks by the Central Bank of Ireland and the European Central Bank. At a time when poor policy and ill thought-out regulation caused such harm to our economy, Deputy Doherty is perpetrating the same behaviour. My colleagues and I are here to be clear that we want to ensure that those who need protection receive it and that those who need our banks for credit to buy a home or support the family business are present in this debate too. At the very least, an independent cost-benefit analysis needs to be done before this Bill can be allowed to move forward, which my Department would be happy to fund but which would be independently chosen. I will not play any role in who will do the work. That is a decision for the committee.
I agree with the interpretation of the Chair of what we agreed last Thursday and how that is being implemented. What can be seen here is classic politics, with Fine Gael's open defence of the vultures and Fianna Fáil's slightly less open approach, although it still attempts to be effective. There is an idea that we will just kick this into the long grass. Everybody knows where that goes. There is a clock ticking towards a general election happening. We know that even if we pass pre-legislative scrutiny, it is likely that the Government will refuse to give a money message, as it has just done for the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018. We should meet on Thursday and agree a report on scrutiny at that stage.
I believe that an independent economic analysis would inform the work of the committee on this project and I would be very supportive of it.
We will clearly not adopt a report on the scrutiny of this Bill today. Many amendments have been proposed by the Minister, Deputy Pearse Doherty and Deputy Michael McGrath. If we do not do anything today, then we will come back in September and look for independent analysis then. I welcome that the Minister has agreed to fund any independent analysis that this committee wants to do and for which it will choose who does the analysis, if I understand the Minister correctly. The Minister would pay for it and we would get to pick who would do it. Let us get on with the independent analysis to look at this Bill because there are clearly concerns from the European Central Bank and Central Bank of Ireland. There is clearly support in these Houses for protecting people as well as we can in what we are doing. Let us get this show on the road so that when we come back in September, we do not then decide to do this independent analysis which could take until Christmas. If anything, Deputy Michael McGrath's amendment about independent analysis speeds up the process rather than us kicking it to touch, bringing in the Garda deputy commissioner now, and not doing anything until September at the earliest. That would mean we would not even be considering this going to Committee Stage until Christmas.
Let me make two points. First, on what the Minister said regarding who needs to be present in this debate, his point is correct. I have been present for all of this debate. If the Minister was in attendance at the debate, he would have heard the Central Bank state that dealing with the issue of securitisation allays the majority of its concerns. That is first and foremost. It has been repeated time and again that the drafting of the Bill is not intended to have an impact on the issue of securitisation and that it would be amended or the position clarified on Committee Stage. The Minister can throw out accusations that I am reckless, not aware of potential consequences and all the rest and state that the Department is paying for this. That is fine. I am sure we could ask that an independent analysis be carried out in respect of the effect vulture funds have had on people who have lost their homes. Perhaps he would not be so willing to have such an analysis.
With that parked to one side, the question is how we find a way forward. As stated, I do not fear anything in the context of testing this. However, it has been months since this passed the Dáil and we have had a process of scrutiny in regard to it. The concern I have is that the independent analysis is linked to allowing this to proceed to Committee Stage. I have no problem with the proposal from Deputy Michael McGrath to the effect that the committee agree to an independent analysis and we can look at the type of analysis we carry out, which is something I would support. However, I would also ask the committee to allow this Bill to move to Committee Stage on the understanding that it will not proceed further until the independent analysis has been completed and we have had time to reflect on it in order that we might shape whatever amendments we wish to bring forward in respect of the report.
Otherwise, and let us call a spade a spade. What is happening here is about scuttling the Bill. That is the reality. There is a divergence of opinion and, obviously, Fine Gael has stated clearly and consistently that it is opposed to this Bill. That is its entitlement. We can do two things. We can agree to carry out an independent analysis, within a timeframe of two months to look at what the analysis needs to cover. Deputy Michael McGrath has captured much of that. We can also complete this report, which would allow us to report to the Dáil with a recommendation that we proceed to Committee Stage, on the understanding that Committee Stage will not happen until the independent analysis, which allows us to be more informed, has been completed.
The independent analysis is post scrutiny. Scrutiny is complete. Otherwise, this is stalling. In my view, this is a fair compromise. Although it is up to Deputy Michael McGrath to suggest whether he supports that.
The process is that the report has to be completed and laid before the House. The select committee must meet to agree it before it goes to committee. Given the timeframe, we have to set aside time to consider the report anyway before we can trigger a meeting of the select committee to decide on it. Within the few days that are left in the session, that is what we are now faced with. As a result, we are back to square one in terms of the timing and for the members to agree to that timing. If the Minister has offered that the Department would fund it, and we can then select someone who will carry out that analysis of the full Bill, not just the impact on one side but the impact on the other side, both vulture funds and customers, it is for the members to decide. However, we have a decision to make about finishing the report. That is the first decision that has to be made. We cannot follow on, as I understand it, unless that is done.
The reality is that the report is not complete and it is not going to be completed this side of the recess. As we can see in the suggested terms of reference that I put forward in the amendment in respect of the independent impact assessment, it relates to, among other things, consumer protection, the protection of mortgage holders and so on.
Given that the report will not be completed this side of the recess, the question upon which the committee must decide is whether it wants anything at all to happen in the next two months. I say this in good faith.
The report can be completed.
We can agree the report on Thursday. The problem is that Deputy McGrath has linked the independent analysis-----
Thursday's meeting is a select committee meeting.
We can schedule a meeting for Thursday. We can meet next week, as we discussed last week. It is not as if everyone will disappear when the Dáil rises. The report can be completed. The problem is that Deputy McGrath has put a stop to the progress of this because of the independent analysis.
Through the Chair-----
I ask Deputy McGrath to lift this barrier and facilitate both the Bill and the independent analysis concurrently, that is, to allow the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage but in such a way that that Stage will not proceed until the independent analysis-----
What is the benefit of the report coming before the House this side of the recess? What is the advantage of that? There can be no Committee Stage anyway until the House resumes after the recess.
First, committees meet early in September, whereas the Dáil does not meet until about the second or third week of September, so there is a three-week loss for a start. Second, it would allow us to prepare other amendments which are required for this report during the summer recess. There is no disadvantage in proceeding as I have outlined unless Deputy McGrath's intention is to block the Bill.
Or unless Deputy Doherty does not want an independent assessment.
I am happy with an independent assessment-----
Great. Let us agree to it so. Let us get it done.
-----but Deputy McGrath should not link it to progress on the Bill or allowing it to proceed to Committee Stage.
The Bill will not progress until September anyway. That is the whole point.
No. The next stage is to agree the report. Deputy McGrath should call a spade a spade. He wants to block the Bill, and the reality is that he is-----
Deputy Doherty does not want the Bill tested. That is the reality.
I have already said that I am happy with an independent analysis. Deputy McGrath had hoped the legal advice would come back stating the Bill was unconstitutional. It has not. He had hoped the Bills Office would say the Bill would need a money message. The office has said the preliminary decision is that it does not. It is therefore now in the Deputy's hands as to whether we are going to allow banks to sell family homes to vultures willy-nilly, as we saw last week. I am happy with an independent analysis. I am not happy that the Deputy is using that as a stalling mechanism. There is a sensible solution here. Allow the report to go ahead and allow the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage but without having that Stage until the independent analysis is done.
I call Deputy Paul Murphy and Senator O'Donnell. Then we will make a decision.
If Deputy McGrath is serious about wanting the independent report and so on, what is wrong with Deputy Doherty's solution? We would finish the scrutiny and pass a report which would include reference to the need for an independent report. The Minister has said he will finance that, which means the authors of the report could get working on it. Then, before having Committee Stage, we would have the report in front of us and it would inform our work. What is the rationale to delaying agreeing a scrutiny report until we have this technical report? One would only do that if one wanted just to delay it and delay it and delay it. We can agree both things today, tomorrow, Thursday or whenever else.
I do not want to go into the report-----
Please do not.
-----but the initial report stated that the committee could not come to a definitive position because of the lack of available data. This independent report will inform us in that regard. That finding was taken out of the second report. That is a fundamental change in the reports. I put it to Deputy Doherty that if we are serious about acting collectively as a committee, we should do our work in a constructive manner. Deputy McGrath has put forward a very reasonable suggestion, that is, that over the summer an independent economic analysis on the impact of this report be allowed to take place. Deputy Doherty's suggestion puts the cart before the horse in saying we start building a house and apply for planning permission later. That cannot be done. What is proposed here will inform our decision-making as a committee. I have pointed out one fundamental change, a significant shift, in the two reports. The first report states that it is not possible for the committee to come to a definitive position on competing considerations.
I regard that as a reasonable representation of the collective views of some committee members. If we are serious about working collectively, what has been proposed by Deputy Michael McGrath is a reasonable suggestion and one that I would wholeheartedly support.
Regarding the process to move this forward, I have the memorandum of understanding before me, which I understand is the document that has been agreed between the Oireachtas and the Government concerning how Private Members' Bills are to be handled. It lays out at the bottom of page 10 that the Dáil select committee must consider, taking account of the scrutiny report, whether the Bill should continue to Committee Stage. Examples of grounds on which a Bill could be considered unsuitable to progress to Committee Stage include the need for further detailed policy analysis, the identification of major technical or legal issues, and the presence of drafting issues that cannot be remedied by way of amendment. All three of these grounds obtain with the current report.
Will the Minister cite them again?
For completeness, there are actually five. They are: further detailed policy analysis; major technical or legal issues identified; significant implementation issues identified; drafting issues that cannot be remedied by way of amendment; and an outcome that does not require legislation. This information is contained in the first appendix to the memorandum of understanding on Private Members' Bills. On at least three of these grounds, there is a clear argument as to why the Bill requires further work before it proceeds to Committee Stage.
Let me be clear. The report we are considering is a draft report. There are significant amendments to it. Regardless of its contents, the important word is "draft". There are amendments that we have to consider. The first decision that has to be made is when we will consider them and the report to complete it. A select committee cannot make its decision based on these five points unless it has the report. For example, we could make a decision to consider the report in full next Tuesday or any other day this week. It would be whenever the members decided. Once that was done, we could proceed with finalising the report. The select committee needs that report to make its decision. From a procedural point of view, that is the way forward. If members agree, we could begin the process of completing the analysis that the Minister referenced while that work was being done. As such, it would not hold up the process. It would allow us to get into perfecting the report for the select committee. That is the only decision that we have to make. There is no final report - it is a draft report, which can be changed by anyone on the committee and agreed by us all. We still have to make that report. Otherwise, the select committee cannot make its decision. As such, can we decide on a date for consideration of the report and the amendments? That is all we can decide. Do members wish to do it this week or next week? I would not mind sitting any day of this week, next week or the week after if it helped to get this matter sorted.
On a point of order, the financial implications section has been removed completely between the first and second drafts. It was section 7, but it seems to have disappeared into thin air. According to paragraph 24 of that section in the first draft, the committee noted that a detailed impact assessment of the Bill had not been carried out, thus hindering us in our consideration of the Bill. That was a reasonable conclusion. As such, is it not reasonable to say that the committee can make a decision to defer our consideration of the report and the Bill pending the preparation of an independent economic impact analysis and the committee's receipt of same?
Members can decide whatever they like.
The sooner we make the decision, the better. All we are doing now is going around the houses. I call Senator Horkan.
I propose that we carry out the independent economic analysis over the summer and that we take the Minister up on his offer to fund it. We can decide later who is going to do the work and let them at it. Whatever comes out of that work will ultimately influence the committee's report. There is no benefit in the committee issuing a press release that the Bill has been approved for Committee Stage because nothing is going to happen before mid-September. The committee might sit a week before the Dáil returns but it will certainly not sit three weeks in advance of that. It makes sense to agree to the independent economic assessment because that seems to be the view of most members. The report arising out of that work will influence how the joint committee compiles and finalises its report. The select committee can then make its decision.
I am just going to say that I think. This is ridiculous. It is a massive stalling tactic to try to scuttle the Bill. Senator Kieran O'Donnell spoke about being reasonable. He is being reasonable in the context of doing everything he can to stop the Bill. Let us call a spade a spade.
No. We agree with a lot of what is in it.
The Senator is entitled to do so. He is entitled to the opinion he holds in respect of the Bill. I have a different opinion. I want the Bill to proceed, although it does need to be amended.
On Thursday, the select committee will take Committee Stage of another piece of my legislation on insurance contracts. There is further analysis needed on the part of the Department of Finance regarding that Bill but there is reasonableness in the approach of the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, in respect of the Bill. We have agreed that the Bill to which I refer will go to Committee Stage. If it passes Committee Stage, it will fall to Sinn Féin to take Report Stage in its Private Members' time. I will not take it to Report Stage until that analysis has been done. We work together to get things done. That is the approach we should be taking in this committee. The reality is that for some members here this Bill has proceeded further than they expected. There is no money message required. The legal opinion is that it is not unconstitutional and, therefore, it now falls into the laps of Deputies and Senators to decide which side they are on and how we balance all of this.
There are issues in terms of timing and delays. The Bills Office has to make a final determination, which it cannot do until scrutiny is done and the report is laid. If we do not lay a report until September, the Bill is further stalled. Scrutiny is completed. If we wanted an independent analysis we should have asked for it three months ago. I do not mind if we have an independent analysis. I have nothing to fear in that regard. In terms of scrutiny, we agreed on witnesses, who should give written statements and who should come before us and so on. We now have an obligation to report. The fundamental problem is in regard to progress to the next Stage, which is Committee Stage, which we all know is where the principles of the Bill are dissected and amended, some of it fundamentally and some of it in a minor way. I agree that we should have the independent analysis before that but what is being proposed here is that this Bill cannot progress until the independent analysis is complete. I do not accept that. I think that it is wrong. It is a cute way of trying to scuttle the Bill while at the same time trying to sound reasonable because certain members do not want to be the ones who are blamed for doing nothing while thousands of people are being thrown to the wolves in the form of banks selling to the vultures.
Let us finish the scrutiny, following which a report will be produced. The scrutiny can make recommendations in regard to the Bill. By the way, the three observations by the Minister are only his observations. They are not my view and they are not the view of the legal team either in terms of issues being unsurmountable. There is a key issue here.
We need to lay it before the House. The memorandum of understanding clearly states that the scrutiny report may make recommendations on, for example, what should be amended on Committee Stage. That is why I have argued that the issue of securitisation needs to be dealt with on Committee Stage. It also allows the Minister to recommend an independent analysis, which is fair. The problem is that the Minister is suggesting there be no more progress on the Bill until that analysis has been completed. In my view, the reason is that he wishes to stop the Bill now rather than at a later stage.
The scrutiny is not completed until we have finished and agreed a report. Every member of this committee is entitled to table amendments to that report and have them duly considered in the normal way. To be fair, the Chairman is upholding the rights of members in that respect. We have that right and no report can be agreed until those amendments have been adjudicated upon. To answer Deputy Pearse Doherty's point, if an independent impact assessment concludes that his Bill will have a negative impact on interest rates, mortgage lending or the availability of credit for small and medium enterprises, I will not support it progressing to Committee Stage. That is the reality. That is why I want this report done. Whether we deal with it now, on Thursday or next week, my position is that an independent impact analysis should be completed before the decision is made. I do not care when we have that debate but I believe my position is very reasonable. The question that must be adjudicated upon is whether we want to waste two months and do nothing. I am proposing that the committee agree today that an independent impact assessment get under way as soon as is practicable. That is what we need to agree today.
Deputy Michael McGrath has made a proposal. The question is whether the committee is happy to accept it and to agree that the independent assessment should proceed before the Bill moves to Committee Stage. On the basis of his earlier comments, I believe Deputy Pearse Doherty will have an issue with that. This is a very significant issue and we need to clarify our position. I propose that we do this on Thursday.
The process is such that the joint committee must complete its scrutiny report. That has to be done first and foremost. We have two draft reports, if we want to call them that, and the amendments. We have a meeting on Thursday morning. We can proceed with our consideration at that meeting because the Bill cannot go to the select committee until the scrutiny report has been completed.
It is the select committee that is meeting on Thursday.
We can cancel that meeting because there is no report for the select committee to consider. We have to complete the report.
Thursday's meeting is set to consider legislation, the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill 2017.
We can decide on some parts of the report in the time during which we were to discuss the No Consent, No Sale Bill. We can decide how we will move forward and set a date for the completion of that report. That is what has to be done. That is the process. We can then arrange a meeting of the select committee to discuss the other Bill so that it will not be delayed. If we make that decision today, the Deputy can propose further dates to consider the report at that meeting. There is an extensive list of amendments to be considered so it will not be concluded in half an hour. I propose that on Thursday morning the joint committee deal with the amendments to the report and the process to be followed because it is only on completion of that report that the Bill can proceed to the select committee.
Is the Chairman proposing that this report go to the select committee on Thursday?
No. I am saying that the joint committee should continue its consideration of the draft report and the amendments on Thursday morning. That process will not be completed on Thursday morning.
Does the report have to encompass the independent analysis? At what stage would it be introduced to the report?
The independent analysis-----
It would be good to have the report.
There is no report without the analysis. What are the guidelines for it? What is being analysed? There is no report without it.
Does the committee have to make a decision as to whether we would like an independent-----
We can make that decision on Thursday morning. I propose that we now decide to begin consideration of the report that is needed for the select committee on Thursday morning. I wish to make clear to members that a second item of legislation must be dealt with and we will not, in my opinion, be able to complete the consideration of all of the amendments because of the number involved. Is that agreed?
What are the time constraints on Thursday?
The committee will meet at 10 a.m. The meeting of the select committee to consider the second item legislation will commence at whatever time the committee so decides.
The meeting of the select committee could be deferred to later in the day.
I agree with that proposal.
If the committee agrees with that proposal, we will talk to Deputy Pearse Doherty about the No Consent, No Sale Bill which is to be considered by the select committee. There will be meetings of the joint and select committees and, at least, it will be dealt with at that stage. Is that agreed?
No, it is not agreed. I wish to ask a question first. The Chair is suggesting we may conclude the report on Thursday. Will we conclude the report on Thursday?
We will find out on Thursday.
On Thursday, we will decide what to do.
Will there be an opportunity to submit further amendments before then?
When will such further amendments be circulated? When is the deadline for them to be submitted?
They should be submitted by tomorrow.
If there are further amendments to be submitted, it would be fair to allow them be submitted between now and the close of business on Wednesday. At least, we are starting the process, otherwise we will be talking about it again and again.
At what time will we meet on Thursday?
We will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday to begin consideration of the report and the amendments. Is that agreed?
Is a deadline of close of business tomorrow for amendments acceptable to the secretariat, which will need to process the amendments?
I am advised that there will not be enough time to turn around amendments submitted by close of business tomorrow for Thursday morning. There are enough amendments to consider anyway. We will not finish it that day.
That is fine. Is there a facility for further amendments to be submitted? If so, what is the deadline?
Would it be possible to set a deadline of 1 p.m. tomorrow for the submission of amendments? Would that allow sufficient turnaround time?
Obviously, we will try to submit them in advance of the deadline.