Before we came to Report Stage I gave an indication that I would consider one amendment in particular and, perhaps, a second amendment on Report Stage. The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, asked: "What is the rush? Why is there a need to push forward with this legislation"? It is 126 years since we passed the Trustee Savings Banks Bill.
Trustee Savings Banks Bill, 1989: Report and Final Stages.
What is another two days?
I have been trying to respond. I do not want to dissipate my thoughts at this stage.
I am confident of the expertise that is both in the Dáil and in the Seanad to come up with what we believe is the best type of legislation. We are armed with the full support of the various Departments and the expertise contained therein and the Office of the Attorney General. I am satisfied that most of the legislation we pass will, when it is interpreted by the Supreme Court, stand the test of time. However, in deference and particularly in view of the fact that I have been described as disingenuous and told that I lack the Christmas spirit, I have considered in totality those sections on which I gave commitments that I would reconsider.
Following consultations I am satisfied that section 23 (6) is in order. Consultations have been held between the Central Bank, the Trustee Savings Banks and the Minister for Finance and they are at one that this section is in order and is relevant. I have considered the area which gave rise to most debate, and particularly most heated debate, section 36 (10) (a) and (b). In deference to the wishes of this House, the very important points raised and the veracity and force with which those points have been made, I am prepared to accept an amendment.
I would like to thank the Minister for conceding my amendment on section 36 (10) (a) and for including his own in relation to section 36 (10) (b). An enormously important principle has been established here tonight. It is not a principle in relation to the Opposition, it is a principle in relation to the operation of Seanad Éireann. We have to establish the fact that if we are to have any relevance as a House of Parliament, we may go through any Bill that comes to us from the Dáil, line by line, and reject or amend an issue where that is so warranted. I thank the Minister and I only wish we could have extended that to a few of the other points where we had difficulty today. I accept the generosity of the Minister, notwithstanding the obvious difficulty he was under here today, for accepting this most important amendment. It goes way beyond the actual amendment itself which is intrinsically very important. We have established an exceedingly important principle even if it causes logistical difficulties in that this legislation will have to go back to the Dáil and this amendment will have to be stamped in the Dáil and agreed.
Notwithstanding the day and the fact that the Dáil is going into recess for Christmas tomorrow, and notwithstanding the late hour and the length of time we had to debate this issue, the fact that the Minister has been able to take on board this amendment speaks volumes for the relevance of this House on a most important piece of legislation such as this. It is worth reiterating that this Bill was guillotined in the Dáil during Committee Stage when only a few of the amendments had been taken. That fact has given rise to the necessity in this House to spend extra time on it and the added difficulty there was in teasing out different points as the different sections came up. This added to the importance of the contribution of the Seanad and to the fact that we have managed to amend the Bill. We have a most important role and if we do not stand up for the role and the rights of the Seanad, nobody else will.
As we are on Report Stage I presume we are taking the different sections. The Minister conceded this principle this morning of section 10 and amendment No. 7. This amendment seeks to insert a time limit of 12 months on the bank in relation to the application for a licence. The Minister will recall that he conceded that principle this morning but he would not accept the amendment because of the logistical difficulty of bringing the Bill back to the Dáil. As the Bill is now going back to the Dáil I ask him to propose an amendment to incorporate that principle in the Bill. My amendment was defeated this morning so I cannot move one now, even though the Minister conceded the principle. I urge him to draw up a ministerial amendment to incorporate the principle I was trying to establish and which he conceded.
I would like to welcome the generosity of spirit from the Government side, even if a little belatedly, in accepting this amendment. I think it is very important. It underlines the functions of the Seanad and makes clear that despite the difficulties the Government may experience in managing legislation they are, under pressure, prepared to acknowledge the important role played by this House.
I would like to congratulate Senator Doyle on the very effective way in which she placed her arguments before the House. It was a very useful example of collaboration between the different elements, both on the Opposition and Government benches. I would like simply to state our own little claim, as Independents, because I do not really believe that these amendments would have been carried through without the participation, both in argument — and we played a substantial role in that argument — and by being physically present to stand up and to make the required number in order to have votes carried through.
A Cathaoirligh, I remember very clearly the first day you were elected to this very responsible and important position in the Seanad. You said you wished to do everything you could to improve the performance and the status of Seanad Éireann. I am sure you will agree that tonight has been very significant in enabling the Seanad to play precisely that role of refining legislation for which it was intended.
Thanks for the compliment.
I too warmly thank the Minister for accepting the amendment on section 36 (10) (a) and (b). It was debated at length. At times it was a tough debate. Some of us lost our tempers but it was that kind of debate, and at the end of the day we have got a good result. Certainly on that section there was an element of ambiguity and I think the Minister has wisely corrected it.
In relation to section 23 (6) I honestly do not think Senator Doyle and the other Senators who were seeking a change in the section should have any worries. It seemed to me that we were really sinking to new depths on this debate. For example, it was suggested that if a Trustee Savings Bank wanted to put a nail in a wall they would have to get the permission of the Central Bank but, of course, that could never be the position. What the Central Bank will decide — and the Minister has hinted this — as part of their supervisory role is that the Trustee Savings Banks do not build branch offices in every town and village. I consider that particular section on the expenditure of a capital nature will work out fine. As I said before, the bank has grown and matured and made a fine contribution to the financial life of this country with the same restrictions placed on it by the Department of Finance and I do not think it will be any different.
I should like to congratulate the Minister who has a fantastic understanding of the Bill. He dealt with Committee Stage line by line and it is a pity that in the Dáil it was guillotined after 17 sections but the debate here today has more than made up for what happened in the Dáil. I congratulate Senator Doyle as she fully understood the Bill, was well prepared and made her points excellently. I am pleased with the outcome of the Bill. It is a far better Bill now.
Senator Ross has tabled an amendment but I regret I must rule it out of order because it deals with a point which the Minister's amendments have addressed and with which we have dealt.
I should like to thank the Minister for the manner in which he addressed the issues in the Bill. This is very important legislation and the Minister has shown himself to be totally au fait with the principles and practicalities of the Bill. We have been criticised on occasions for not legislating but, irrespective of who takes the credit, this Bill was debated properly and agreed. The Government accepted amending legislation in this House and it now goes back to the Dáil. Committee Stage of this Bill in the Dáil took up only two pages in the Official Report.
It was a sham.
I will not say it was a sham but it should have——
I must remind Senators that the business of the other House is not a matter for the Seanad.
I wish to thank the Minister for the manner in which he accepted the reservations expressed in the House and for his continued interest in this House. He has been here on many occasions.
Before we adjourn I wish to say how grateful I am to all the Senators who participated in this long, tedious and technical debate. I appreciate the sincerity and commitment with which Senators expressed themselves and I hope we have now reached a consensus which is satisfactory to everyone. If I raised my voice on one or two occasions, I regret it.
I wish you all a happy and holy Christmas and a financially and politically prosperous New Year.