Dáil holding Nama debate

Thu, Oct 22, 2009, 01:00

Opposition parties have attacked the Government’s proposed legislation for the National Assets Management Agency (Nama), insisting it does nothing to ensure banks restart the flow of credit to borrowers.

The Oireachtas finance committee is meeting today to debate the National Assets Management Agency Bill 2009.

The debate is being held in  the Dáil chamber today and next week to allow all TDs to participate. Only members of the committee, which has a Government majority, will be entitled to vote on amendments to the Bill, some 250 of which have been submitted by the political parties.

At the beginning of this morning's session, Fine Gael’s finance spokesman Richard Bruton said the “profound questions” that need to be answered is will Nama successfully get credit flowing, will it be fair and will it be introduced at minimum cost to taxpayer.

He said he believes the Bill as proposed by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan “fails to meet minimum requirements”.

Mr Bruton said the Government was “very much reliant” on banks who are already constrained in their capital and are trying to trim their loan books to ensure money is made available again to borrowers. He claimed there had been no legislation published by Mr Lenihan that would ensure credit begins to flow again.

Mr Bruton said his party’s proposed amendments to the Bill were not only “seeking to copper-fasten changes that need to happen in Nama, but also changes in the banking system to ensure [this situation] never happens again”.

Ireland’s banking system needs radical upheaval and evidence that this is happening has yet to manifest itself, Mr Bruton claimed.

Mr Bruton said theBill did not contain any coherent business plan or proper assessment of the future of the property market. Nama would require close scrutiny to ensure it was getting the best possible outcome for the taxpayer. “This animal must be supervised by the Oireachtas in a way that has never been envisaged,” he said.

Labour’s finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said her party was proposing the establishment of an Oversight Commission to scrutinise Nama.

This independent commission, which would report to the Dáil every 30 days, should not consist of TDs or Senators, as they could be compromised in their own constituencies where people may have lost their jobs due to property developers going bust, Ms Burton said.

She said the Irish property crash became overheated due to Fianna Fáil’s emphasis on tax breaks for developers and claimed developers, acting like “Russian oligarchs” had been in cahoots with the Government and senior civil servants. Regulation was lax and nobody had the courage to stand up and shout stop, she said.

She also reiterated Mr Burton’s demand that the Government acts to ensure the return of credit to businesses and other people seeking loans.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Arthur Morgan said the Nama Bill was “fundamentally flawed” as it did nothing to address the problems faced by people on low or middle incomes.

He said there was huge anger among such people, who feel they are being “thrown overboard from the lifeboat to make room for the Golden Circle of the speculators, the bankers and their cronies”. The only beneficiaries of Nama, he said, are those within this Golden Circle.

Mr Lenihan rejected Mr Morgan's claims, saying they were "completely wide of the mark".

"We all have a duty in this House to collectively address the problems we face and the banking crisis is clearly entirely distinct from the crisis in the public finances," he said.

He also said he may be open to considering the option of a committee on the lines of the one being proposed by Labour.