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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item State Airports (Amendment) Bill 2012: First Stage
 Header Item Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2012: Referral to Committee
 Header Item Credit Union Bill 2012 (Resumed): Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 782 No. 4

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Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We want to help the Government.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan When can we expect to see the alcohol pricing Bill before the Dáil?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It will be early next year.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I would like to know whether the heads of the offshore gas storage Bill, which will provide a legislative framework for the storage of gas at depleted sites under the seabed, has been discussed by the Cabinet. Has the mediation Bill, which will implement the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, been discussed by the Cabinet? Is it likely to come before the House shortly? What stage is it at?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The heads of the mediation Bill were approved in February. It will probably be the middle of next year before it is actually published. The heads of the offshore gas storage Bill have not yet come before the Government. It will be next year before it is published.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis Almost eight months have passed since we received the report of the taxi review group. The rules that have been introduced across the board in the taxi industry since then are affecting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would you please put your question?

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I refer, for example, to the rules relating to the national car test, the three-year rule that has to be observed by new people entering the industry, the nine-year rule and the rules relating to signage on cars.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett What are you looking for, Deputy?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley He is calling for a taxi.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis I am asking when we will get a chance to debate this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would you ask your Whip?

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis Can the Taoiseach tell us when the taxi regulation Bill is due? Is there no way of fast-forwarding it?

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications is dealing with it.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis This delay is affecting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am aware of that. It will be published in this session. Deputies will have plenty of opportunities to have comprehensive discussions on it.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Taoiseach said yesterday that legislation providing for the establishment of the new child and family support agency will come before the Dáil in the new year. Is it not necessary for that legislation to be in place before the agency can be established? The Minister has given a commitment that the agency will be established in January. Can the agency be established prior to the commencement of the legislation?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I think I said it will be published this year. I do not think I said it will be published in the new year. I think I said it will be-----

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I can go back through the record of the Dáil if the Taoiseach likes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Perhaps my recall is not as sharp as it should be.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Can the Taoiseach not recall what he said 24 hours ago?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny My understanding is that the Bill will be published in this session. Obviously, it will be debated after that.

State Airports (Amendment) Bill 2012: First Stage

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the State Airports Act 2004, and to provide for matters connected therewith.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is the Bill opposed?

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is not opposed.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2012: Referral to Committee

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I move:

That the General Scheme of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2012 be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, and to the sub-Committee on Privileges of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, as appropriate, for scrutiny, with particular reference to those parts of the Bill coming within the functions of those committees.

  Question put and agreed to.

Credit Union Bill 2012 (Resumed): Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy Last night, I described the difficulties associated with trying to establish a credit union in a rural area with a low population. While I welcomed the broad thrust of the proposed legislation that is before the House, I set out five concerns that Sinn Féin has with regard to it. I would like to mention a sixth concern, which is very important. In areas of low population, the setting of strict term limits on directors and the prohibition on being a member of the board while being a member of the board's oversight committee will present difficult if not insurmountable challenges for credit unions. As I said last night, if such a high level of voluntary commitment did not exist, there would be no need for regulation because there would be no credit unions.

I would like to make three suggestions that would improve the functioning and performance of the credit union sector immediately. The Bill should support the sharing of services among credit unions to permit access to a wider range of services by members throughout the country. The Bill should allow credit unions to offer electronic payment accounts, as this would support the Government's efforts to maximise social inclusion. The Bill should enable credit unions to provide funding to Government-backed or Government-guaranteed schemes and projects, where those schemes and projects would have a social benefit.

If we were to make nine amendments to this legislation to cater for the six concerns and three proposals I have outlined, we would ensure it does not damage the worthy institutions - the credit unions - it sets out to protect. I hope the Minister can accept my suggestions and incorporate them in the Bill.

Deputy Arthur Spring: Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring I would like to share time with Deputies Dowds, Nolan and Maloney.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Arthur Spring: Information on Arthur Spring Zoom on Arthur Spring Over the last day or so, I have listened to Deputies speaking about this legislation as if it will cause the demise of this country's credit unions, which have 3.1 million members. On the contrary, we are trying to provide for lending and deposit institutions that are stronger, more regulated and more prudent. Like 3.1 million people throughout the country, I am a member of a credit union.

  We have been contacted by the Irish League of Credit Unions and the Credit Union Managers Association. The Irish League of Credit Unions has suggested amendments to the Credit Union Bill 2012. I understand that its submission has been sent to the Department and that the Minister has had time to peruse it. The Minister set out his thoughts on the Bill in a comprehensive reply to Question No. 57 of 24 October last.

  I am highly aware of the capacity of credit unions in rural areas to attract appropriate people of the calibre set out in the Central Bank Acts, as mentioned by the previous speaker. Under the new legislation, they will have to undertake the onerous task of having to replace directors on a recurring basis and the onerous task of the new treasurer. This requirement could ultimately lead to the demise of credit unions in small peripheral areas.

  We cannot underestimate the credit union movement. It has fulfilled a role in society that has not been fulfilled by banks, loan sharks and other people we will not mention in the House, who have sought to benefit from the circumstances of people who are not well off. It looks after people when it comes to First Holy Communion, people going to college for the first time and people seeking their first car loans. It is the place where we realise how vital it is to save money in order to be able to purchase a house and do necessary things in society.

  I wish to comment on some of the suggestions that have been made by the Irish League of Credit Unions. I think we are going to head towards electronically enabled payments accounts. I welcome the proposal regarding social finance. It is something that should be examined with regard to pensions as well. It would be preferable for the money that is put on deposit to be ultimately spent in the local area rather than throughout the country as part of public private partnership agreements. A real benefit could accrue from local people putting money into an institution locally, having an investment stake in it and ultimately reaping a dividend from it.

  It is obvious that the term limits will present a problem. A "hub and spoke" resolution to this problem will have to be considered. One cannot tell people in rural areas that they cannot have a credit union because it is not possible to find the appropriate directors. We have discussed the prohibitions at length. Many of the Deputies who spoke last night recognised that onerous tasks are being bestowed on credit unions.

  The memorandum of understanding for a credit union is significantly different from that of a normal registered company. The Minister referred to the need to be regulated under the Central Bank Acts in response to Question No. 57 of 24 October last:

It is not the case that the Central Bank Acts are banking legislation. The principal domestic Act dealing with the establishment of banks is the Central Bank Act 1971. The references in that Act to credit unions are specifically required to ensure that credit unions are not subject to a banking regime.

It is imperative that this remains the case at all times. The two types of institution are not the same. I encourage people not to adopt a multifaceted banking approach. Credit unions need to continue to be vanilla banking institutions that take in deposits and provide smaller loans. They need to proceed on a socioeconomic path, rather than on a balance sheet path.


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