While my colleague the Minister for Finance, Mr. Michael Noonan TD has responsibility for the banks and bank lending, I am working closely with him to address the issue of access to credit for enterprise in Ireland at this critical time. Access to credit is a key element to building a vibrant and sustainable enterprise base. As the Deputy is aware, I am currently bringing two pieces of legislation through the Oireachtas to deal with some market failures in this area namely, the Credit Guarantee Bill 2012 and the Microenterprise Loan Fund Bill 2012. These two targeted initiatives are essential in terms of addressing specific market failures and facilitating a more accessible financing environment for SMEs in Ireland.
The legislation for both these schemes is currently before the Oireachtas and is being progressed as quickly as possible, with a view to introducing the Loan Fund and the Temporary Partial Loan Guarantee as soon as possible. In the interim, normal bank lending arrangements will continue and enterprises that are refused access to credit by the banks should seek to have these decisions reviewed by the Credit Review Office (CRO). The Credit Review Office is overturning 60% of the decisions referred to them, supplying €6.9m of credit, supporting 683 jobs in the SME sector. SMEs that have been refused credit by banks should avail of the services of the Credit Review Office.
The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has imposed SME lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending, including lending for working capital purposes, of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. Both banks achieved their 2011 targets. The progress on their lending plans is closely monitored each month by the Department of Finance. In addition to these positive Government initiatives in the area of finance, my Department is working closely with the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office to ensure that the amount of credit to the SME sector is maximised to facilitate sustainable job creation and retention.