That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide that Lenders may not transfer mortgages on residential property without the consent of the borrower and to provide for related matters.
This is very important legislation. On 29 November last year, Permanent TSB announced it was selling 6,139 loans linked to family homes. That was not the first sale of family homes by that bank, or indeed by other banks, including State-owned banks, going right back to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, to vulture funds. What made this a new low in Irish banking was that these mortgages involved families who were meeting their agreed arrangements with the banks. They were fully up to date, but the sale still went ahead. No sale to a vulture fund is right, but this sale is particularly offensive. It is time for action, and the people and Sinn Féin say that enough is enough.
This Bill builds on the Central Bank's code of practice on the transfer of mortgages. The first line of the code of practice, introduced in 1991, states "A loan secured by the mortgage of residential property may not be transferred without the written consent of the borrower". The code dates from a time before the banks destroyed this country's economy. The cruel irony is that the banking collapse directly led to the loss of jobs and businesses, which in turn led to hundreds of thousands of people falling into arrears. Some ten years after that collapse, those same banks are now turning on those families unfortunate enough to have suffered. They are literally throwing them to the vultures.
This is a vicious circle. Its victims are hard-working families and individuals who are doing their best to recover after the banks crashed the economy. Anyone with a sense of justice or fairness must see that these vulture sales are completely unnecessary. Another quote I came across is the following: "Notwithstanding its voluntary nature, I expect that best practice dictates that the code be applied by all institutions to all classes of residential property". Those are not my words, but the words of former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, from 2012, when he placed on the record of this House his answer to the current Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, when asked about the voluntary nature of this code. It should be noted that he said that it should be applied to all institutions. Some six and a half years later, we hear nothing from the Government about best practice and the application of the code. Have these years of putting banks first changed the core values of the people so much that we do not dare insist on what were basic demands only a few short years ago?
I do not believe that this is a radical Bill. It is concerned with fairness and putting into legislation what the Central Bank and the Minister for Finance had until recently considered best practice. The Government will surely say that the Bill will end the market for sales to vulture funds in this State. I deeply hope that is the case, and I have no problem in saying that. I do not want a vulture economy, and neither does my party. I have chosen a side. I am on the side of the small struggling farmer, homeowner and small businessman, not the side of the vultures. I hope that is clear. The banks selling off these loans are not paying a penny of tax. They are subsidised by the help to buy scheme. They are allowed to charge rip-off interest rates. They are reducing services bit by bit, especially in rural Ireland, and are allowed to sell these loans despite the code of practice saying that they need the consent of the borrower.
The people have a right to say to the banks that we almost bankrupted ourselves to save them and that we have thousands of our sons and daughters in Australia and elsewhere because of them. The least we can ask of them is for them to do their job and work through their mortgage arrears applying the options available and doing their best to keep people in their homes.
The Bill is not great in length - it is a medium-length Bill - but its purpose can be summed up in the line taken from the code of practice of the Central Bank of Ireland. It says that a loan secured by the mortgage of residential property may not be transferred without the written consent of the borrower. That is where Sinn Féin proudly stands. I look forward to hearing where others stand when we move the Bill through Second Stage, which I intend to do next week.