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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 22 Jan 2015

Vol. 237 No. 3

Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the Members for the opportunity to discuss the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2014 today. The Government is bringing forward this Bill at the request of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis.

The Bill includes two main provisions. First, it amends section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942 to allow the Central Bank to disclose confidential information to the joint committee of inquiry under certain circumstances. As things stand, Central Bank officials are subject to professional secrecy requirements and could face criminal sanctions for sharing confidential information in this way. Second, the Bill provides for the Houses of the Oireachtas to make Standing Orders setting out the sanctions to apply to Members of the Houses for any failure to comply with these professional secrecy requirements.

On 14 May 2014, the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis, chaired by Deputy Ciarán Lynch, was established by orders of both Houses of the Oireachtas. The committee was tasked with the development of a relevant proposal for an inquiry into certain aspects of the banking crisis. The purpose of the inquiry is to seek to establish the reasons Ireland experienced a systemic banking crisis. The joint committee met on seven occasions between 19 June and the 24 September 2014 to draft the relevant proposal and was assisted in its work by a support group with relevant knowledge and expertise. On 26 September 2014, the committee submitted its relevant proposal to the Committees on Procedure and Privileges of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann for the conduct of an inquiry in accordance with the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 into certain aspects of Ireland's banking crisis. On 26 November 2014 the committee was formally empowered to conduct an inquiry under Part 2 of the 2013 Act. The Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis is the first inquiry to be carried out under this legislation.

The scope of the inquiry as outlined in its terms of reference is broad and enabling. It is broken down into two phases, the context phase and the nexus phase. The context phase is for the purpose of information gathering. As Senators are aware, the joint committee of inquiry has already begun this work. This will inform the nexus phase, which will focus on three broad elements: banking systems and practices; regulatory and supervisory systems and practices; and crisis management systems and policy responses.

I want to say something about the interaction between the Department of Finance and the banking inquiry. The Department of Finance is fully committed to supporting the work of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. This has been stated clearly in a number of letters from the Secretary General to the committee Chairman. The Department is in the process of sourcing, examining and formatting the substantial number of records requested by the inquiry. To this effect, a full-time central co-ordination unit has been established in the Department consisting of seven full-time staff. Eleven staff from other areas within the Department have been reassigned to process the records in the format required by the committee. In addition, ten temporary clerical officers have been recruited to assist in the processing of records for the inquiry, which gives a total of 28 staff working full-time and exclusively on the banking inquiry matters. Furthermore, a significant number of Department staff are actively sourcing and examining records relevant to the inquiry's direction in addition to their normal duties. Moreover, the Department's Secretary General has communicated directly with the inquiry's Chairman to ensure its direction to the Department is being met effectively. The Department is therefore clearly doing everything in its power to assist the banking inquiry in its work.

I will now explain the origin of the Bill being debated today. In its relevant proposal, the joint committee stated that section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942 prohibits listed categories of persons within the Central Bank from disclosing certain confidential information. The joint committee felt that this provision may therefore prove problematic for the banking inquiry when it seeks this information, which may in many cases be vital to the progression of the inquiry. Having taken legal advice on this point, the committee was of the view that it is necessary to amend section 33AK to overcome this issue. The joint committee further stated that ancillary amendments to the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann will also be required to put in place a process for how the Houses of the Oireachtas deal with confidential information and providing sanctions for Members who disclose such information without authorisation. In its consideration of the relevant proposal, the Committees on Procedure and Privileges considered that the preparation of the necessary amendments to the Act should be expedited by the Government. Therefore, in response to the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Inquiry and the Committees on Procedure and Privileges, the Government published the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2014 on 3 December 2014.

As Members are aware, the banking inquiry will inquire into the reasons Ireland experienced a systemic banking crisis. It will look at the political, economic, social, cultural, financial and behavioural factors and policies which impacted on or contributed to the crisis. In doing so, the joint committee may inquire into the findings and recommendations of previous reports into the crisis. Previous reports include the Honohan report, the Regling and Watson report and the Nyberg report. These reports identified that poor supervision, poor assessment of risks and a lack of following through on enforcement all played a part in the financial crisis.

Acting on the recommendations contained in these reports, a number of significant reforms have been introduced to build a strengthened regulatory framework as follows: the creation of a single fully integrated Central Bank of Ireland with a unitary board, the Central Bank commission; a regime to ensure the fitness and probity of key officeholders within financial service providers; a resolution mechanism to enable the Central Bank to intervene where a credit institution gets into serious difficulty and is in danger of becoming destabilised or otherwise failing; and strengthening powers for the Central Bank to impose and supervise compliance with regulatory requirements, and to undertake timely prudential interventions.

A comprehensive overhaul of the regulatory framework in the financial sector has also been pursued at EU level since the financial crisis. Through the introduction of various initiatives, the stability and resilience of the financial sector has been strengthened. Ireland has played a key role in driving these reforms at European level, including the single supervisory mechanism and the bank recovery and resolution directive. The wide-ranging and comprehensive reform in the financial services sector at both domestic and EU level in recent years is to be welcomed. We must never return to the failed policies which led to the banking crisis. Lessons must be learned. In that regard, this banking inquiry is essential.

I now turn to the provisions of the Bill. Section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942 contains an express prohibition under the Treaty of Rome, the European System of Central Banks statute and the supervisory EU legal Acts on disclosure of confidential information. All current and former employees of the Central Bank, including the Governor and members of the Central Bank commission, are affected by this prohibition.

The legislation has two purposes. The first is to amend section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942 to provide a gateway for the disclosure of confidential information by the Central Bank to the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. The information will be disclosed on condition that it remains confidential. The second is to provide for the Standing Orders of the Houses to set out the sanction for any Members who fail to comply with the provisions of professional secrecy as set out in the EU instruments. That sanction will be articulated in Standing Orders of the Houses which will seek to ensure that information provided in confidence to Members of the committee is not subsequently disclosed.

The sharing of information by the Central Bank with the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis will not be possible until the changes to Standing Orders have been made. The reason for Standing Orders to be amended is to accommodate the constitutional position of the privilege of Members of the Oireachtas which restricts the extent to which criminal sanctions can be applied. This is not the case for any other persons who would disclose confidential information. For example, current and former personnel of the Central Bank would be liable to criminal sanction were they to disclose confidential information in breach of the professional secrecy requirements. Any other person who would receive confidential information pursuant to the gateway is subject to the statutory obligation contained in section of 33AK(6).

If such a person were to breach that obligation in circumstances where absolute privilege does not apply, an action for damages could potentially be brought by any party who suffered damage as a consequence of that breach.

Under the EU treaties, Ireland is required to consult formally with the European Central Bank, ECB, on any new legislative provisions relating to the Central Bank.

The opinion which I have received from the President of the ECB is largely positive but the ECB has made the point that the scope of section 33AK(6) of the Central Bank Act 1942 should be broadened to comply with Article 37.2 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks, or ESCB. There is a duty of secrecy under the ESCB statute and that is why I propose to bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage in this House to broaden the scope of section 33AK(6) to provide for such obligations of professional secrecy. This would have the effect of removing any ambiguity over the scope of professional secrecy requirements pertaining to persons who would receive information disclosed by the Central Bank.

The ECB opinion further notes that under the capital requirements directive, specific conditions, rather than prohibitions, also apply when disclosing confidential information relating to the prudential supervision of institutions to parliamentary inquiry committees. The ECB identifies these conditions as follows: (a) the parliamentary inquiry committee must have a "precise mandate" under national law; (b) the information must be "strictly necessary" for fulfilling that mandate; (c) persons with access to the information are subject to professional secrecy requirements under national law at least equivalent to those referred to in the capital requirements directive; (d) where the information originates in another member state, that it is not disclosed without the express agreement of the competent authorities which have disclosed it, and solely for the purposes for which those authorities gave their agreement; and (e) to the extent that the disclosure of information relating to prudential supervision involves processing of personal data, any processing by the parliamentary inquiry committee must comply with relevant national transposing law.

The banking inquiry will be reflecting on some of the darkest days for the Irish economy. Thankfully, we are starting to emerge from those difficult times. The macro-economic and fiscal outlook is much more favourable than it has been for a number of years. Exports are growing and consumer spending and investment are on an upward trajectory. The number of people at work has increased by over 100,000 since the low point.

However, the Irish people have sacrificed a lot and the crisis has impacted heavily on their lives. They are entitled to understand the origins of the crisis and, importantly, to ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. The amendment to section 33AK of the Central Bank Act is an important part of that process.

The Bill addresses a key concern of the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis and ensures there are no barriers to the Central Bank co­operating fully with the banking inquiry. The Government is initiating this Bill on the floor of this House today to facilitate the work of the joint committee. I look forward to a constructive debate on the Bill. I hope the House will support the passage of the Bill and assist in securing its early enactment.

I understand that the Cathaoirleach has been notified of an administrative error in the Bill as initiated, which consists of an additional bracket at the very end of line 23. I therefore ask the Cathaoirleach to request the Clerk to correct the misprint. I commend the Bill to the House.

That error will be changed. I call Senator Wilson who has eight minutes.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Noonan, to the House. Fianna Fáil supports this Bill, which is a technical amendment to the Central Bank Act to allow current and former Central Bank officials to give evidence on a confidential basis to the banking inquiry. As the Minister has outlined, section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942 will be amended to provide a gateway for the disclosure of confidential information by the Central Bank to the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. That will enable the officers of the Central Bank to disclose information to this specific joint committee, but not to any other committee, on the condition that the information disclosed remains confidential, thereby respecting the professional secrecy requirements as set out in EU law. It will also provide that Standing Orders may be enacted so that any Member of either House of the Oireachtas to whom confidential information is provided and who fails to comply with the provisions of professional secrecy in respect of that information may be subject to the sanction of the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with the rules and Standing Orders of the Houses.

However, the issue of the ECB's participation in the inquiry remains unresolved. The apparent refusal of the ECB to participate in the banking inquiry is completely unacceptable and as much pressure as possible should be put on it to fully co-operate.

I take this opportunity to commend the members of the banking inquiry who are doing an excellent job. They have been fair and balanced to date and while my party believes there should have been an independent statutory inquiry into the banking collapse, we are satisfied that the banking inquiry is conducting its affairs in a balanced and fair manner. I commend our colleagues in this House, Senators Susan O'Keeffe, Michael D'Arcy, Sean Barrett and Marc MacSharry, who are contributing significantly as part of the banking inquiry team.

I have concerns regarding the amount of money the legal representation is costing the taxpayer. I ask the Minister to use his good offices to see if anything can be done in that regard. We will be supporting the Bill on all Stages.

I welcome the Minister to the House. This is a technical but very important Bill allowing the Central Bank to disclose confidential information to the committee. As the Minister said, the joint committee put the relevant proposal to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for its consideration. I can assure the Minister that our Committee on Procedure and Privileges scrutinised that relevant proposal in a serious manner and took quite some time to do so. I pay tribute to the members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, the Cathaoirleach and the officials, and the members of the legal profession who assisted us in our deliberations.

As the Minister stated also, should we pass this Bill today some ancillary amendments to our Standing Orders will be required to go through the House, and I am sure we will expedite that also.

The ECB has a good deal to say with regard to the conditions on disclosures, as the Minister outlined, but as expressed by Senator Wilson also, I hope the ECB would co-operate with the committee. If it cannot have somebody attend because it feels it is answerable to the European Parliament, I would hope it will give all the necessary information to the banking inquiry committee to enable it carry out its business in a professional manner, which I am sure it will do.

I commend the Bill to the House. The question of legal fees raised by Senator Wilson was raised previously on several occasions. It had been suggested that several of the economists helping members and others on that committee are giving of their time free of charge. I hope that the legal advisers would take a leaf out of their book, but I will not hold my breath.

I welcome the Minister and I support the Bill he has brought before the House. I commend the Minister and the Taoiseach for their efforts to persuade the ECB to participate in the inquiry.

I commend the Minister on his speech in Dublin Castle on Monday.

The Minister mentioned a gremlin and I also have experience of one. I had sought to amend the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 with amendment No. 5, but the Act listed is the Central Bank Act 1942, which only contains 42 pages. I express my sympathy to officials in the Department of Finance who were trying to find pages 51, 52, 58 and so forth. Somewhere in the system, the gremlins that put an error in the Minister's amendments also put in a completely wrong reference. I apologise for any confusion and thank the departmental officials who called my office this morning while I was at the banking inquiry. These things happen, unfortunately.

The committee has got off to a good start, with a very enthusiastic membership and very capable Chairman. It is, as the Minister said, doing extremely important work. One must have a lender of last resort for a banking system. One would wish that the service would never be called upon but it was required on that occasion. I would hope that matters can be resolved. The only quibble I have is that those events took place in 2008 and we are now in 2015. It is a pity we did not try sooner to get to grips with the problems that arose in Irish banking.

I commend the Governor of the Central Bank on his openness in his dealings with the committee. Departmental officials are also being very open. Everybody is resolved that such a cataclysmic event, costing an estimated €40 billion, does not happen again. I support the Bill, with a number of proposed amendments. Unfortunately, some of the amendments do not make any sense at present because of the gremlins mentioned previously. All of the amendments, if they are of use to the Minister, have the aim of strengthening the Minister's hand. They are offered in that spirit. I will not be calling any votes on the amendments I have proposed. This is a commendable endeavour and it is great that so many entities are co-operating, including the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I hope the result will be good for the country in the end. It is a very short period of work, as the Minister knows; we must finish by October. I hope the committee completes the task and that its findings will be of value to the Minister.

The Minister referred to the other reports which had much to contribute, including those from Mr. Wright, Mr. Nyberg, Mr. Watson and Mr. Regling. Several of those reports' authors have been before the committee and have shed much light on the issues involved. Indeed, some of the interesting findings of the committee so far are reflected in my amendments. I strongly support the Bill.

I echo the comments of Senator Cummins regarding the assistance that Members of this House and of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges have received from a number of sources, not least opinions given on pro bono basis with regard to the terms of reference of the banking inquiry. The work of Deputy Ciaran Lynch, as Chairman, will hopefully bring the inquiry to a successful conclusion in an extremely tight timeframe thanks to his determination and willpower. I also like thank the Members of this House who are serving on the committee and who are giving an enormous amount of their time to it - Senators O'Keeffe, MacSharry, Barrett and Michael D'Arcy.

As has been said, this is a technical Bill. We are here because we are inquiring into the reasons for Ireland's systemic banking crisis. The inquiry will include an analysis of the political, economic, social, cultural, financial and behavioural factors and policies which impacted on or contributed to the crisis and the preventative reforms implemented in the wake of that crisis. There is no party in this House that does not want the inquiry to have the maximum powers possible to allow it to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This is a technical Bill amending legislation in place since 1942 which will allow employees, current and former, of the Central Bank to provide information to the committee on a confidential basis. The information will not be put into the public domain but it will allow the inquiry to examine fully every aspect of banking that requires examination. I thank the Minister for expediting this legislation.

In his speech the Minister mentioned the level of resources that his Department has been putting into ensuring that it will, as a Department, make a full disclosure to the committee. I welcome that and would argue that the disclosure should be generous. I know, from my work as a lawyer, that disclosure can sometimes not be as generous as it ought to be. Significant criticism has been levelled at the Department of Finance and I hope that the same spirit of disclosure that is being applied to the Central Bank will also be forthcoming from the Department. I welcome the extra resources committed by the Department in that regard.

I welcome the fact that the inquiry committee, to date, has generated an exceptional level of engagement from witnesses and the public. There is now a much better understanding of the issues involved, even at this early stage in the process. The Minister mentioned that this legislation will allow all employees of the Central Bank, including the Governor, I assume, to make full disclosures. Can we expect further disclosures from the Governor, whose disclosures to date have proved to be quite interesting?

While it is not directly related to this Bill, I welcome the announcement within the last hour that Mr. Jean-Claude Trichet may be willing or able to assist the inquiry by some means other than appearing before the committee. The possibility of him appearing before a sub-committee of the Irish Members of the European Parliament has been mentioned. Personally, I would prefer to see the man in Ireland, facilitating the inquiry to the fullest possible extent, but if that is not possible, I hope that all measures that can possibly be taken are taken.

This has been a very dark time for the Irish people although it is a time that we are working through. I think I am right in saying that our level of growth last year was well above the European average. It was very close to 4% and may be revised upwards. Our employment figures are exceptional and at the end of the day, the best answer to poverty is getting people back to work. We are, as an economy, performing well ahead of the European norm. Today's announcement from the ECB that €60 billion per month will be available for quantitative easing should improve the lending capacity of banks in Ireland. Mr. Draghi suggested at a press conference that some European banks could use this money to repay some more expensive debt or to reduce their existing liabilities. What we are all hoping for is a lift for the European economy and, in particular, an improvement in the lending capacity of our own banks.

It has been a very tough time for the Irish people. Ms Christine Lagarde came in for a certain amount of criticism for comments which some deemed to be patronising to the Irish people when she said that it was the Irish people who have delivered Ireland out of the crisis.

However, that is the truth of the matter and the Irish people deserve the truth. This minor technical legislation is and must be part of that truth. Let us hope there are further truths that will be delivered in time and if further legislation is required, the Minister should not hesitate to bring it to the House.

The Minister is welcome, as is this Bill. It is straightforward and clear and it is all a question of being allowed access to information. However, I will take this opportunity to raise a related point. Briefly, I am suggesting we try to use this vital information, about which Members are talking, at the most important stage when one can act upon the information possibly to avert a crisis or to save the taxpayer money rather than examining it when it is too late. In the case of those Irish banks that collapsed, had the information been available earlier, much of the banking crisis possibly could have been avoided. One way to ensure that the right people get this information is to install software in banks that has the ability to uncover wrongdoing. If Members' aim is to improve the financial services industry through this Bill, should they not consider such measures?

Some information technology companies now specialise in e-discovery, namely, the practice of examining electronic records to unearth important data and relationships. Another protection is offered by network forensics software, which allows the recording and playback of exactly what happens on employees' computer screens and can even record keystrokes. For instance, one type of network surveillance software provided by a particular software company allows everything from e-mails to electronic calendars to be analysed, thereby building a picture of typical patterns of communications across an organisation's operations. It then flags exceptions to those patterns, such as individuals who send many messages to one another even though they are not in the same unit and have little reason to interact.

Allow me to conclude by stating that in one notable case in the United States, thanks to such software a link was found between several executives at a firm that had been issuing bogus invoices to inflate its revenues. This is not totally unlike the position at Anglo Irish Bank, where members of the board ended up buying shares in the bank to inflate the value.

This Bill is short, succinct and straightforward and I certainly support it. I believe it provides an opportunity to Members to congratulate those members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis and its Chairman, including those who are Members of this House, on the work they are doing, as well as enabling them to continue their work.

Briefly, I join in the support for this Bill and congratulate the Minister on its introduction. As previous speakers have noted, it is technical legislation designed to ensure the smooth running of the banking inquiry. It is welcome to hear Members stating that the inquiry has got off to a good start. Thus far, proceedings are being conducted in a fair and balanced way and it is to be hoped the outcome will be that the type of scenario Members have witnessed and the hardships people have endured never again will be allowed to happen in Ireland.

I was very interested by Senator Quinn's contribution on early warning systems that would alert the authorities to possible difficulties within the banking structure and in these days of improved technology, it should be possible to have a system that would alert the Minister and the Governor of the Central Bank to issues of concern. I wish the Chairman and members of the banking inquiry well for the difficult task that lies ahead of them.

I share the concerns expressed by Members in respect of the potential large costs that may be incurred in legal fees. While I do not expect anybody to work for nothing, I appeal to members of the legal profession to be reasonable in the fees they charge the inquiry for their services. I again compliment the Minister on the job he is doing as Minister for Finance and acknowledge that much of the progress made can be attributed to him and to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for the sure-footed way they have steered the ship of State over the past three and a half years.

I will try to keep my comments brief. I also welcome the Minister to the House. Sinn Féin welcomes the inquiry into the bank guarantee as it provides an opportunity to delve into those aspects of the bank guarantee and the financial crisis that have not been explored in detail to date and to get to the crux of the power in the Irish State. The terms of reference of the inquiry were quite explicit in that it states it must look at the relationships between State authorities, political parties, elected representatives, supervisory authorities, banking institutions and the property sector. It is these relationships, namely, the nexus of banks, developers and the State, that give the people an opportunity to examine both decisions surrounding the guarantee and the financial and political relationships that made possible such decisions. This is new, as none of the four reports published to date have considered these relationships in detail and they are key to our understanding of the manner in which power operates in the State.

In order to do this, the inquiry must step back from the night of the guarantee and must consider matters over a longer timeframe. For example, it is known that from the fall of Northern Rock in September 2007, the Financial Regulator, the Central Bank of Ireland and the Department of Finance were all discussing possible scenarios that could play out within the banking system in Ireland. There is also a demand from the public to have appear before the joint committee those who were operating the levers of power at the time, be they developers, politicians, bankers or officials. This has not happened previously and this Bill will play a small but not insignificant role in that process. It will allow joint committee members to access that confidential information which otherwise would not be available to them and this is welcome. While the information covered by this Bill will remain confidential, it nonetheless forms part of a wider process of trying to uncover the truth of what happened on the night of the guarantee, in the years leading up to the decision and essentially, in the years that followed. Consequently, Sinn Féin welcomes this Bill and will support it.

This is my first time to address the Minister in the Chamber and I am proud to so do. I am getting really worried because he is the second Minister today who I have been obliged to congratulate on something. I spoke against the banking inquiry in this House and with one other Senator voted against it. However, as is typical of the Minister, I believe he has done everything he can to leave no hiding space for anybody, at least within the confines of the State. I congratulate him on this Bill, which is a wonderful piece of work. I hope it provides some of the clarity people in Ireland seek.

Not unlike my colleague, Senator Mullins, I have some concerns about the legal costs and ask the Minister to prevail as best he can on all sides to try to minimise trips down to the Four Courts. Moreover, if there are to be such trips, I ask that some form of fixed cost be set at the outset to avoid running up massive tribunal bills or something similar.

I wish the Minister well with this legislation. I only wish he could bring the same power to bear on those European people who have huge questions to answer, as well as central banks from other parts of the European Union that have questions to answer for the reckless lending they allowed to take place into this country. I hope the Bill will deliver for the people what it certainly promises or attempts to do. I compliment the Minister on it and will not take up any more of his time.

I thank all Senators who contributed and, in particular, thank them for their support for the Bill. It is good to come to the Seanad and have unanimous support across the parties and the Independents, for which I thank them.

A number of issues were raised. Senators Wilson and Cummins raised the participation of the European Central Bank. The Taoiseach had a conversation about this with Mario Draghi, who got his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, to contact the Taoiseach. While there is some engagement, they have legal difficulties because the Parliament to which they are accountable is the European Parliament.

They would like to help, and if they could identify a legal forum by means of which they could provide information to the committee without any conflict with their other obligations, they would not be reluctant to do so. As late as this afternoon, Mr. Trichet indicated that he was somewhat open to engaging with the joint committee in some form. I think what he has in mind is perhaps travelling to Dublin, speaking at a suitable forum and answering questions from members of the joint committee there rather than at a hearing of the committee. The Taoiseach has communicated the information he gleaned from the engagement in which he partook. There is a process of contact in place. Whether Mr. Trichet attends a hearing of the committee is not that relevant, in my view. What is important is that he should provide all the information in his possession in respect of the decision making in which he, as governor of the European Central Bank, was involved at the time of the banking crisis.

A second important issue was raised with regard to the legal costs relating to the inquiry. It would not be proper for me to interfere in any way with the financial resources available to the committee. The committee must be independent, which is what the Seanad and the Dáil wanted when establishing it. The cost of the banking inquiry will be met from the budget of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. The annual accounts of the commission are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the commission's Accounting Officer is accountable to the Committee of Public Accounts regarding the final audited version of these. I understand that the joint committee intends to publish the running costs of the inquiry on a regular basis. In the context of previous inquiries, we often only discovered the costs involved when deliberations had been concluded. Perhaps a year after an inquiry had finished its work, there would be a nasty surprise when the scale of the legal fees involved emerged. Publication of the running costs at intervals will keep matters on track and provide Members of the Oireachtas with the ability to exercise, even remotely, some financial control over the legal costs relating to the committee.

Senator Hayden referred to the possibility of further disclosures from the Governor of the Central Bank. I saw him deliver part of his evidence and I thought he spoke very freely. However, I do not know whether he was inhibited by the provisions of the Act that we are now amending from providing further information. If he was so inhibited, this Bill - which will be passed by the House today and by the Dáil next week - will afford him the opportunity to say anything further which he may believe it necessary to say. The main information that will be allowed to be provided as a result of the enactment of the Bill will be that which is documentary in nature rather than personal oral evidence. There are many sensitive documents that will be allowed to be provided as a result of the passage of the legislation.

Senator Quinn's suggestion was very interesting. The banks have quite sophisticated IT systems. I do not know whether they have the type of monitoring software to which the Senator referred. However, I will ask my officials to communicate his suggestion to the Central Bank in order to discover whether the latter might make it mandatory for the commercial banks to put in place some kind of electronic monitoring apparatus to support the regulatory interventions it carries out on quite a frequent basis.

This has been an interesting debate. There are new protections in place in the financial sector in respect of whistleblowing and there are obligations on key officeholders to disclose wrongdoing to the Central Bank. In that context, there have been major changes right across the regulatory regime that governs the banks since the advent of the crisis. Senior bankers are now obliged - both under law and at pain of criminal sanctions - to provide information in respect of any wrongdoing they come across in the course of their work. The system is, therefore, improving.

I thank Senators for their support. Senator Hayden referred to the announcements relating to quantitative easing made by Mario Draghi at 1.30 p.m. I am of the view that this initiative will be the benefit to the economy. Like the Taoiseach, I hope it will assist us in continuing to grow our economy, sustain our recovery and create more jobs. It is a very significant step and I hope it works.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?