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Credit Unions.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 30 June 2005

Thursday, 30 June 2005

Questions (272, 273, 274, 275, 276)

Richard Bruton

Question:

257 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the annual budget and resources allocated to the Registrar of Credit Unions since its establishment. [23772/05]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

With the enactment of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 responsibility for the statutory supervision of credit unions passed from the Registrar of Friendly Societies, under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to the Registrar of Credit Unions within the Financial Regulator.

In accordance with section 33N of that Act, a statement of income and expenditure for the financial regulator, including the information sought by the Deputy, must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The following information relating to the annual budget and resources of the Registrar of Credit Unions was included in the statements provided in February 2004 and April 2005 respectively:

2004

2005

€000

€000

Budget

1,400

1,200

Staff

Staff

Resources

21

21

Richard Bruton

Question:

258 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many credit unions representatives and volunteers believe that the Registrar of Credit Unions is seeking changes beyond his legislative remit and that both credit unions and the registrar are seeking a review of current legislation in this area; the timeframe for such a review; and if he will report on any discussions regarding such a legislative review. [23773/05]

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Richard Bruton

Question:

259 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that individual credit union officials should now compete for board positions by way of proposals of intent and that credit committees should also have expertise appropriate to the type of loans approved; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that these positions are voluntary and it is therefore unrealistic to expect specific expertise; and if he intends to pay for the education of the volunteers in these specialist areas. [23774/05]

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Richard Bruton

Question:

260 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that the regulatory burdens imposed on credit unions may be excessive for some of the movement; his views on the merit of introducing some transitional arrangements to recognise the different ethos of credit unions from other financial institutions. [23775/05]

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Richard Bruton

Question:

274 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Registrar of Credit Unions organised a meeting with information technology suppliers regarding future needs of credit unions without consulting with credit unions on their future requirements. [24212/05]

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I propose to take Questions Nos. 258 to 260, inclusive, and 274 together.

Credit unions are regulated by the Registrar of Credit Unions within the financial regulator. They are regulated primarily in accordance with the Credit Union Act 1997.

The decision to maintain a distinct regulatory structure for credit unions within the financial regulator was a deliberate one, designed to reflect their particular volunteer and community-based ethos. This ethos was already reflected in the Credit Union Act.

The Credit Union Act lays down, not only prudential and consumer protection rules, but also the separate and distinct legal structure from which credit unions benefit. This includes the rules governing the conditions for registration as a credit union and the procedure for the appointment of boards of directors, supervisory committees, credit committees, credit control committees and membership committees.

Oversight of the system laid down in the Act is the responsibility of the Registrar of Credit Unions, who occupies a statutory post within the financial regulator. The core function of the registrar is to take such action as appears necessary, within the terms of the legislation, to protect the savings of credit union members. In discharge of his duties, the registrar is free to issue to credit unions such guidelines as he considers desirable. The regulator also issues such guidelines to other sectors. Their general purpose is to provide advice and information regarding best practice to financial institutions. They are intended to support the continued development of an effective and efficient regulatory system that underpins the maintenance of financial stability and the protection of the consumer.

The manner in which the registrar carries out his supervisory duties under the Credit Union Act, including any guidance notes that he chooses to issue or meetings he chooses to arrange, are solely matters for the registrar, subject to any directions or guidelines that the regulatory authority may issue to him. It is a matter for credit unions themselves to address any training requirements that might arise for officers and staff of credit unions.

I am aware of views being expressed about the possible need for changes to the Credit Union Act to reflect the changing role of credit unions in present-day Irish society. Such views have been expressed by credit union representative bodies as well as by the registrar. I am also conscious of the demands that the credit union regulatory system can impose on volunteers and the need to ensure that the regulatory burden is proportionate to the objective of protecting the savings of credit union members. I am aware that the registrar has been consulting widely with a view to encouraging the maximum consensus on changes to the regulatory system. I have also asked the credit union advisory committee to advise me on the need for such change.

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