This is a public consultation on the draft general scheme of the credit union Bill 2012. In the first section of today’s hearing, we are delighted to welcome representatives from the financial professional and accountancy bodies.
I welcome Ms Eileen Fitzgerald and Ms Annmarie O'Connor, MABSndl; Ms Eimer O'Rourke, director of retail, and Mr. Felix O'Regan, director of public affairs, Irish Banking Federation; Mr. Kevin Morris, Mr. Tom Fitzpatrick, FMB Chartered Accountants. The format of this meeting will be that we will take a question and answer session with regard to the substantive submissions made by the various bodies to the public consultation process run by the Department of Finance that concluded last August.
I remind members, witnesses and those in the public gallery that all mobile telephones must be switched off. The meeting is being broadcast by UPC on its 801 channel and if a mobile telephone is switched on, it almost certainly will interfere with the broadcast, even if the telephone is in silent mode, sometimes to the extent that the broadcast is disrupted seriously and those watching cannot follow or hear the questions being asked or the answers given. Consequently, I ask everyone to disable the mobile telephones.
I wish to advise the witnesses in the normal way that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a person, persons or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members similarly are advised and reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
MABS set out in its submission some general arguments about the challenge to ensure we stay faithful to the credit union ethos on the one hand and that there should be adequate and robust regulation of the sector on the other. This is the balancing exercise that needs to be determined in the course of preparing this legislation. As I stated earlier, we have read the submissions. If the delegations wish to emphasise part of them, they can take the opportunity to do so. The submissions have drawn us to several specific elements of the draft legislation. We have a day of hearings today as we have to complete this exercise quickly because the Bill must be published by the end of September.
We only have a day of hearings - briefly yesterday and today.
I ask MABS to address some of the specifics in its submission, for example, prudential requirements. In that regard, MABS draws the committee's attention to heads 3, 6 and 8 in particular. Would Ms O'Connor address MABS's concerns in turn? On head 3, MABS has a concern about a lack of contingency in respect of borrowers who are unable to make their loan repayments. I understand MABS thinks that is overly restrictive. Ms O'Connor might tell us what her concern is in that regard.