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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Yet the Minister refers to adjusting to new realities. New Beginning asserts that there are up to 50 new repossession cases before the courts every month. This is the new reality to which many of those in mortgage arrears are now adjusting.

Bank activity has focused increasingly on such people in the past eight weeks. This is what we are hearing on the ground and from the groups at the coalface. There is an absence of independent oversight of the banks.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Does the Deputy have a question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Inexplicably, the Government changed the code of conduct a short while ago and reduced the protections. It stood by and allowed this to happen.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn And your question is what?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The change gives more power to the banks to do what they want, namely-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin No question.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----return to profitability and target those in arrears. There are no safeguards against abuse in terms of increased contact. All the restrictions about contacts with customers are gone.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg One would think the Deputy had just landed. His Government caused the problems.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The banks can harass people for as long as they want.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin How about a question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt A question please, Deputy Martin.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin For the first time ever, tracker mortgages are now on the table. People are getting no-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin This is a Second Stage speech.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order, please.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Deputy Martin's Government caused the problems.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The truth hurts, Deputy Stagg. There is no independent oversight in terms of those-----

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Could we have order, please? A question from the Deputy, please.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn His question is what?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is no independent oversight of tracker mortgages or the offers that banks may make to people on those mortgages-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----to ensure the wool is not pulled over their eyes.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Sit down. The Deputy is over time. He has no question.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is no entitlement to a minimum level of income, for example.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, do something about this.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg The same old hypocrisy every morning.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputies, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Fundamentally, the Government has changed the legislation to give all of the power and control in this scenario to the banks.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin A Leas-Cheann Comhairle-----

Deputy Arthur Spring: Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring It stays in the Central Bank.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I am sorry, Deputy, but you have gone over time. You must resume your seat.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I accept that.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte He is well over time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I must call the Minister.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I just want to ask him, if I may-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Ask him, please, and conclude.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Many people on the Government benches are aspiring to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's position and are giving him instructions.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Given what was revealed yesterday-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Martin was not very good at giving instructions either.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----will the Government change tack and ensure independent oversight of the relationship between banks and mortgage holders?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The Government cannot even keep basic promises.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Do the others agree with that?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am unsure as to whether there was a question. One comment I must make is that-----

A Deputy: There was a lot of hot air.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Does the Minister agree with Ulster Bank?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton -----the Deputy opposite does not seem to realise that hundreds of thousands of people-----

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Hear, hear.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton -----were led into buying property in the midst of a property bubble that was supported by flawed policies pursued by the Government. That is the reality.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Egged on by the current Government.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton We are trying to deal with the consequences of policies that failed.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Cheerleaders. I remember it well.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Answer the question.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I will answer the question on whether we agree with Ulster Bank's claims. Clearly, we do not know the data in respect of Ulster Bank and its claims, but we have put in place a requirement to have sustainable solutions by the end of the year for 50% of people who are in difficulty. This is overseen independently by the Central Bank. Furthermore, the process-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is not. The Central Bank has made it clear that it has no prescriptive powers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Please, the Minister has the floor.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy is shouting people down.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald Does he not want the answer?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister should not mislead the House on this point.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Allow the Minister.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Furthermore, if banks fail to engage in a mortgage arrears resolution process, MARP, the situation can be appealed to the Financial Services Ombudsman.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Would someone in arrears go to the ombudsman?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The banks' commitment to dealing with the regulations as set out is overseen.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Deputy Martin should watch behind himself.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Look at what happened to Deputy Rabbitte.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Individuals who have been unable to find agreements with their banks have the option of going to an independent personal insolvency service where the issues can be independently assessed and a procedure can be put in place to deal with their problems. Right along the trail, there is independent oversight of the different steps in this process-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, please.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton -----to ensure those who cannot pay are offered sustainable solutions. This is the route we have sought to pursue. If we fail to face up to these problems in our banks, we will have the sort of zombie problem within banking that traps families, banks and our economy in a situation in which they cannot move forward.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath There are a few zombies over there.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The actions we are taking are designed to allow for a recovery-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin And allow more repossessions.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton -----after the crisis created by policies about which Deputy Martin knows more than we do.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams In budget 2013, the Government signalled that €750 million would be cut from health spending this year and that medical card entitlements would be targeted. During the Easter recess in April, the HSE announced that further restrictions on medical cards were being introduced. This followed on from legislation that lowered the income threshold for medical card qualification among people aged over 70 years. This has come from a Government elected on a promise of free primary health care for all.

Every Deputy knows that constituency offices are being inundated by citizens bearing the brunt of these cuts and whose medical card entitlements have been removed. In many cases, they are from households in mortgage distress and are suffering unemployment and the extra taxes the Government is pressing down on them.

There are stories behind all of these statistics. In my constituency of Louth, a seven year old with a congenital heart defect who has required numerous surgeries and ongoing general practitioner, GP, and hospital care and medication has seen his card withdrawn.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Question.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams This is a part of the Government's austerity policy. Parents have needed to cope with such situations. Does the Minister accept that, in taking medical cards from thousands of families, the Government is inflicting financial hardship and poorer health prospects on people who are already struggling? Does he accept that this additional cut is especially severe for families like the one to which I referred, particularly given the outrageous cuts to child benefit? Will the Minister commit to restoring medical card entitlements?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I thank the Deputy for his question. Medical card eligibility is set out plainly in law. The means test has not been changed. People have the right to present individual health cases, which are always addressed. If the Deputy wishes to draw a specific case to the attention of those assessing it-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Thousands of them.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton -----I would be happy to receive it.

The broad picture is that an increasing number of people have medical cards. Never in the history of the State have we had as many as 42% of people eligible for cards. The figure has increased this year. Despite the difficulties in which public services find themselves and the economies that every part of Government has needed to achieve, we continue to expand entitlements for primary care because we recognise that people need eligibility in that regard. There are difficulties in every part of the health service, but we are expanding eligibility in terms of medical cards and we have not reduced the means test in any way. We continue to have a process whereby cases involving particular hardship and medical evidence can be brought to the attention of the decision makers. These aspects are factored into the decisions taken. In difficult times, we are trying to ensure people are catered for in respect of their access to GP and primary care.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams That sounds wonderful, but it does not reflect the reality of life for citizens like the one I mentioned. I will provide another example. I received a letter seeking support for a man in County Galway. It reads:

This man is 102 years old. Come on, Minister. This is the reality for a family.


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