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 Header Item Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 845 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry] We viewed this as a first step in the process of assisting the development of the co-operative model.

Reference has been made to the active promotion of co-operatives. It is my Department's role to provide the legislative framework within which business entities can operate. The co-operative model is one of several legal options available to those considering establishing in business and the various models have distinct characteristics. In the case of co-operatives my Department's role is to facilitate their development, rather than actively encourage or promote them. We do not promote one co-operative over another. It is up to each individual operation to choose the model that best suits the nature of the business and the desired ethos of the entity. Other Departments, however, have more direct engagement with co-operatives and the co-operative movement and often have an interest in promoting the co-operative model in a particular area. For example, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine deals with many of the larger agricultural and dairy co-operatives, while the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government deals with housing and water schemes which make up one third of all co-operatives registered, as well as community-based co-operatives. The Department has been strongly supportive of the UN resolution on co-operatives in social development, indicating that it envisages a key role for the voluntary and co-operative sector in the delivery of social housing in the future.

Deputies Michael Moynihan, Peadar Tóibín and Finian McGrath all raised the issue of our intentions in respect of friendly societies. I reiterate our rationale for the changes proposed, principally the proposal to close the registration of new societies. The lack of demand for the friendly society model is evident. The nature of the activity carried out by these societies in recent years has, by and large, moved from the self-help and membership-based models to a more commercial field of mainstream insurance. The benevolent and charitable societies now fall under the regulatory wing of the Charities Act 2009 which was recently commenced, while social and recreational clubs in recent years are registering in greater numbers under the company model which allows them to avail of limited liability, an option which is not a part of the friendly society structure.

It is a fact that the current legislative regime does not provide for prudential supervision of friendly societies by any public authority. This is a source of concern in that there is a potential risk to the interests of certain members of the public where societies offer financial services. There seems to be some concern that we are treating friendly societies unfairly when they have been relatively stable versus some of the other financial institutions. The reality, however, is that we are simply recognising that where financial services are being offered to members of the public, there should be some prudential supervision of that offering. While we have been relatively lucky with our friendly societies in Ireland, some Deputies may recall that only a few years ago in Northern Ireland the Presbyterian Mutual Society collapsed at significant cost to its members and, eventually, the United Kingdom Government. No one can afford to be complacent about financial probity in these times.

The issue of a suitable prudential supervision regime has been considered and it is intended that it will be examined further with the Central Bank and the Department of Finance. The powers to exercise such supervision are not provided under either the friendly societies legislation or the Central Bank legislation; therefore, appropriate powers must be put in place - there are no existing powers which can simply be transferred. It is considered best to address this matter under the Central Bank Acts, in which the powers of financial prudential supervision already reside, rather than under the Friendly Societies Acts. In the interim, we have no wish to see new societies move into this unregulated area.

I thank Deputies for their time and attention and look forward to hearing their views in the future consideration of the Bill as it progresses through the House.

  Question put and agreed to.

Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy John Perry): Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation pursuant to Standing Order 82A(3)(a) and (6)(a) and 126(1) of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business.

  Question put and agreed to.

Topical Issue Matters

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Gerald Nash - the number and variety of training courses offered by SOLAS in Drogheda; (2) Deputy Thomas Pringle - the need to maintain the shuttle bus service at Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal; (3) Deputy Shane Ross - the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-charging schools; (4) Deputy Helen McEntee - to ask the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government if a special provision could be made for a separated person who has applied for social housing and for whom legal separation is not a feasible option, either for the person in question or the other party, to the effect that while the applicants are waiting for free legal aid, they could remain in receipt of a rent allowance payment; (5) Deputy Terence Flanagan - the need for Irish Water to ensure water meters are fully accessible to those with disabilities; (6) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the need to resolve the causes of the strike action at Roadstone Wood; (7) Deputy Frank Feighan - the need to address concerns relating to pupil numbers and staffing levels at Drumboylan national school, County Roscommon; (8) Deputy Seán Crowe - the delays wheelchair users are facing when getting wheelchairs repaired; (9) Deputy Seán Kyne - the need to commence immediately insulin pump treatment for young persons with diabetes over the age of five years in the HSE west region; (10) Deputy Anthony Lawlor - the need for urgent funding to be secured for works to commence on the Osberstown interchange, the Sallins bypass and the upgrading of the M7 from two to three lanes from the Naas area to the M9 exit as soon as permission is granted by An Bord Pleanála to assist in the development of the Kerry Group research facility at Millennium Park, Naas; (11) Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin - the need to discuss a renewed approach to tackling drug use, specifically the decriminalisation of personal use in particular cases, and to follow through on international examples of good practice in this area; (12) Deputy Eamonn Maloney - the need for credit unions to engage with small and medium-sized enterprises; (13) Deputy Regina Doherty - to raise the matter of a four-teacher school in Meath East, roll No. 17312M, which has lost a teacher, despite an appeal and although the roll numbers are rising and expected to rise for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17; furthermore, according to the number of children in the area on the parochial baptismal register, it is expected that the school will have an average class size in excess of the general average of 28:1 and although it is not in the failing-to-gain category, it is losing a teacher and will have a high average class size for one year, a scenario the appeal process was designed to avert; (14) Deputy Kieran O'Donnell - to ask the Minister for Health to extend BreastCheck to women aged between 65 and 69 years as set out in the programme for Government; (15) Deputy Martin Heydon - the need to retain three teachers at Scoil Naomh Lorcáin, Levitstown, Maganey, Athy, County Kildare; (16) Deputy Denis Naughten - the need to review the operation of the acute psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway following the recent internal audit; (17) Deputy Dessie Ellis - to discuss the effects of the wind-down of the regeneration of Ballymun, in particular, the need to maintain important local services and employment; (18) Deputy David Stanton - to ask the Minister for Education and Skills to debate the urgent need to begin construction on a premises for the amalgamation of two primary schools in Carrigtwohill, County Cork, roll Nos. 17103E and 18000W, both of which are at their limit with respect to accommodation, and, furthermore, the urgent need to commence the provision of a new second level school in Carrigtwohill, County Cork which is also due to be progressed in 2014-15 in the Department's five year building plan; and (19) Deputy Jonathan O'Brien - to discuss the urgent matter of an industrial dispute between trade unions and the Department of Education and Skills regarding the schools building programme.

The matters raised by Deputies Frank Feighan, Shane Ross, Eamonn Maloney and Denis Naughten have been selected for discussion.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It would be wiser to suspend the sitting for 20 minutes to be fair to everyone because we have finished rather early and I imagine some of the Deputies may not be aware of this. Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Sitting suspended at 2.55 p.m. and resumed at 3.15 p.m.

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