Written Answers. - Credit Union Legislation.

Noel Davern

Ceist:

573 Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment when he intends to introduce legislation regarding credit unions; the date for the introduction of a Bill dealing with this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17047/96]

Patrick J. Morley

Ceist:

583 Mr. Morley asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason for the delay in publishing legislation on the role of credit unions; and when this legislation will be published. [16506/96]

Michael P. Kitt

Ceist:

585 Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason for the delay in giving increased power to credit unions; when it is proposed to publish legislation in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16583/96]

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

588 Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment when it is proposed to introduce credit union legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16607/96]

Máirín Quill

Ceist:

593 Miss Quill asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the current status of the Credit Union Bill; when the Bill will be published; and if he has a time frame for its enactment. [16730/96]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 573, 583, 585, 588 and 593 together.

I would refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions No. 81 in this House on 25 January 1996, as reported in Volume 460, No. 5, columns 1395 and 1396, my reply to Question No. 22 in this House on 28 February 1996, as reported in volume 462 No. 3, at columns 741 and 742, and my reply to Question No. 287 in this House on 18 June 1963, as reported in Volume 467, No. 1, column 221. These replies are included as appendices, 1, 2 and 3.

Proposals for the updating and consolidation of the body of legislation dealing with credit unions, which dates in some cases from 1893, are well advanced. The scope of the Bill has necessarily required detailed attention on the part both of my Department and the Attorney General's Office. However, I am pleased to be able to tell Deputies that a first draft of the Bill, which involves up to 200 sections, has recently been received from the parliamentary draftsman, and it is presently being examined in detail by my Department and the Registrar of Friendly Societies, who has overall responsibility for the regulation and supervision of credit unions. The Bill will be finalised in conjunction with the parliamentary draftsman in the coming weeks, after which Government approval will be sought.
The Credit Unions Bill is my priority for legislative action, and while I am not able to give a precise date for publication or enactment at present, I can assure Deputies that every effort is being made to have the Bill published within the next three months, in order that it be considered during the current Dáil session.
APPENDIX 1.
Credit Union Movement.
81. Nr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason he has not brought forward amending legislation to ensure that the Credit Union movement can operate in the same financial environment as other institutions; the reason for the delay in introducting this legislation; when he proposes to make the necessary changes, including the publication of the proposed Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1610/96]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 164 on 5 December 1995 as reported in Volume 459, No. 3, columns 449-450).
The Government's legislation programme, published regularly, includes a Credit Union Bill among those being actively worked on and to be published as soon as the necessary consultative, drafting and other procedures allow. Proposals for the updating and consolidation of the body of legislation (1893 to 1978) dealing with credit unions are still with the Parliamentary Draftsman. In the course of the development of these proposals by my Department and the Registrar of Friendly Societies, there has been extensive consultation with interested parties, including the Irish credit union movement itself. Unfortunately, these various processes took much longer than originally anticipated.
As indicated in reply to previous questions, it would not be in order to formally anticipate the content of the proposals that might eventually emanate from the drafting process. Apropos the Deputy's reference to the financial environment for credit unions and other institutions, I take it that he is aware of the particular ethos of the credit union movement which differentiates it from banks and building societies. It was never proposed to breach that ethos.
I wish to again confirm my intention to introduce the Bill as soon as possible after the drafting processes are complete and I have had an opportunity to put the Draft Bill before my cabinet colleagues. I have previously signified that interested parties will then have another opportunity to review my proposals before they are considered by the Oireachtas.
APPENDIX 2.
Credit Union Regulations.
22. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the progress, if any, made in revising the regulations governing credit unions; when he intends bringing forward legislation in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4517/96]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 81 on Thursday 25 January 1996, Volume 460, No. 5, columns 1395-6.
I would also say that the publication of this Bill at the earliest possible date is a high priority with me. It is a priority because of the importance of the credit union movement in our society. The movement is all-Ireland with more than 500 individual credit unions, four-fifths of them in the Republic. Total membership is in the order of one and three-quarter million people and membership in recent years has been growing at around 10 per cent per annum on average. The credit unions' combined loan book in 1994 was estimated at £1.3 billion and lending was growing at something in the order of 20 per cent per annum.
All of this has been achieved by a movement based on notions of voluntarism, the common bond, community, and self-help. It is a movement that has created a very significant financial services organisation that commands the loyalty of its members, delivers service and value and does all of this outside the framework of private ownership and the profit motive. I value all of this and what it has contributed to local, family, personal and social development on this island. North and South.
The movement is now well-placed to grow in significance and to add enormously to the range of services is provides to its members. This will provide strong competition for the privately owned for-profit credit institutions in particular segments of financial services. This is all for the good of our society and economy.
However, if all of this is to happen, the legal framework, the supervisory and regularity regime within which the movement operates will need significant updating. That is the purpose of the Bill now in preparation. I see this Bill as a radical measure. It will consolidate and update legislation, and it will provide the framework for the expansion of the credit unions into new areas of service to their members. That is why I attach such high priority to the completion of the drafting of the Bill and I look forward to introducing the Bill to this House at the earliest possible opportunity.
APPENDIX 3.
Credit Union Powers.
287. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the reason for the delay in relation to increased powers for credit unions [12776/96]
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 164 in this House on 5 December 1995 as reported Vol. 459, number 3, cols. 449-450 and my reply to Question No. 81 in this House on 25 January 1996 as reported in Vol. 460, number 5, cols. 1395 and 1396.
Proposals for the updating and consolidating of the body of legislation (1893 to 1978) dealing with credit unions have been developed by my Department and the Registrar of Friendly Societies and are still with the parliamentary draftsman. In the course of the development of these proposals there has been extensive consultation with interested parties, including the Irish credit union movement itself.
I wish to again confirm my intention to introduce the Bill as soon as possible after the drafting processes are complete and I have had an opportunity to put the draft Bill before my Cabinet colleagues. I have previously signified that interested parties will then have another opportunity to review my proposals before they are considered by the Oireachtas.