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Personal Insolvency Bil 2012: From the Seanad (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter]  Amendment No. 50 provides for the replacement of the current subsections (3) and (4) in section 33. The amendment essentially improves the text by making clear how the debtor's income is to be calculated for potential repayment where there has been an increase in such income. It also takes account of the new provisions regarding excluded and excludable debts and how these are to be treated in this scenario.

Amendment No. 51 is a drafting amendment. The previous provision concerned in section 34 is now to be dealt with by a revised section 35 provided for by amendment No. 52, which improves the text of the existing section 35 with regard to the situation of the debt relief notice process when a possible payment to creditors becomes available. The primary change is to mirror the now possible inclusion of certain previously excluded debts in a debt relief notice. In recognition of that possibility, such creditors deemed to hold permitted debts, which are those excluded debts the creditors have agreed to include and write off, will receive priority over other creditors if some funds become available. Realistically, I do not expect such repayments will be a major feature of the debt relief notice process, given its nature and the likely economic position of applicants for a debt relief notice.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 31, which we are discussing as part of this group, is in the name of Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins May I seek a clarification?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Yes.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I also indicated.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I call Deputies Niall Collins and Healy-Rae in that order.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Can the figures of €750 and €2,000 in respect of jewellery and vehicles, respectively, be revised upwards by ministerial order?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Yes.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I raised my issue with the Minister previously. I appreciate from where he is coming when he refers to creditors, as I know what it is to be a creditor. Perhaps unlike him, my other work often entails my being owed money by people who find themselves in a position of being unable to pay. I can view the issue from both sides of the coin.

The figure is set too low. I appreciate the Minister's remarks to the effect that, regardless of what figure he decided on, be it €2,500 or €3,000, people would claim it was wrong. Sure, I may as well be talking to the wall.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I beg the Deputy's pardon.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I genuinely believe the figure the Minister has set is too low. There is a groundswell of opposition. People outside the Houses know which figure is being chosen and are unhappy with it. Anyone can run into financial difficulty in the current economic climate. Regarding the point on which Deputy Niall Collins sought clarification, it is good the figure can be raised at a future date, but I do not know why the Minister would not accede to the request to increase the figure to at least €1,500. Items became more expensive while times were good and people might have bought items with which they would not like to part. The flat rate figure set by the Minister in respect of personal jewellery is too low and should be increased.

I appreciate how he has moved on the question of vehicular transport. When I raised this issue previously, he missed my point. He believed I was referring to one type of vehicle when I mentioned "jeeps". Where I come from, a "jeep" is a work vehicle, not something that can be seen swanning around the suburbs of Dublin or taking children to school. There is a difference. The work vehicles are used by contractors and farmers. If they want to get their legs back under them, return to work and try to get to a better place after running into financial trouble, strong, suitable and sound vehicles are a basic necessity. These are not fancy or elaborate. They are ordinary, common work vehicles that any farmer, contractor or so on needs. They are not the type of vehicle that someone like the Minister might have. I hope he will take on board my opinions.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn How does one follow that? Spot on. Deputy Healy-Rae has conveyed the difference between urban and rural mindsets.

I appreciate that the Minister has moved some ways and pushed the value of the item of ceremonial importance to €750. In fairness, he also pushed the vehicle's valuation to €2,000. I welcome this. He may believe we are being churlish in our amendments, but he knows the typical engagement ring purchased in the past decade would rarely have cost as little as €750. I appreciate that a Deputy provided him with a valuation. I was alarmed when I heard it.

I do not want the Minister to believe this is a token amendment. It is a practical measure that reflects the reality of the value of people's engagement and wedding rings. No one involved in the process wants to see legislation the practical interpretation of which permits someone's engagement ring to be taken. We will press the amendment if the Minister does not accept it. Clearly, the Government will win this debate, given the numbers in the House, but I ask the Minister to reflect on the question put to him by Deputy Niall Collins. There may be an opportunity to amend this measure at a later stage if he cannot do so today.

The second issue is that of the car valuation. The Minister used the term "luxury". I agree with Deputy Healy-Rae, in that having a vehicle in rural Ireland is no luxury. If one lives in rural parts of the Inishowen Peninsula or in north or west County Donegal, public transport will rarely pass one's way during the day. If one wants to have a job or participate in the life of the community in any meaningful way, one must have a car. I appreciate that the Minister has moved towards €2,000, as it is a step in the right direction.

The State benefits from VRT. Against all European directives, we choose to have a high VRT rate, increasing the cost of our cars. What one would get for £1,000 in the North differs greatly from what one would get for €1,200 in this State.

My amendment reflects reality. With all due respect, we are rural people and we know a basic car or vehicle, to take Deputy Healy-Rae's point on board, is necessary to survive in areas where the public transport system of many years is now absent. All the Minister needs to do is ask one of his rural colleagues what constitutes a basic car for the people in question.

I appreciate what the Minister has stated. A local business, credit union or so on will seek to strike a balance; no one wants people to be humiliated. The people under discussion are in financial hardship. Through this amendment, we want those in rural Ireland in particular to have the chance to return to the world of work.

Our amendments are practical and are not intended to disrespect the fact that the Minister has taken on board our points. I commend him in that regard, as he has not maintained a stubborn position. I appreciate the ring valuation came from an Opposition Member's recommendation. In the Minister's heart of hearts, though, he knows he probably has not gone far enough with either valuation. He may, however, insist on not accepting these amendments.

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