Moves to shed light on IFSC lobby group
The Government is to take a series of measures to make the work of the controversial IFSC Clearing House Group more transparent.
The group was established at the same time as the International Financial Services Centre in 1987. It comprises senior representatives of banks and financial companies and senior Government officials. The group is chaired by the country’s most senior civil servant, Martin Fraser.
In recent years it has been subject to growing criticism over claims that it is excessively secret in nature and that it has given the financial services industry unfettered access to lobby Government on issues affecting it.
Shroud of secrecy
Last week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny signalled moves to lift the shroud of secrecy and make the work of the group less secretive. The minutes of the meetings since the Coalition was formed in March 2011 will be published.
Twenty-nine meetings of the group and its subgroups have been held in 2012 alone, all of them in Government Buildings in Dublin.
Late last week Mr Fraser wrote to the chair of the Oireachtas finance committee Ciarán Lynch to inform him that he would be available to brief the committee on the group’s work. The Government also intends to publish a report on the activities of the group for the first time.
A number of backbench Government TDs have criticised the secrecy of the group and what they say has been the disproportionate influence on Government of what is essentially an industry lobby group.
Labour MEP Nessa Childers and Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys have been to the fore in making the criticism.
This year 21 changes were made to the Finance Act at the behest of the industry, which provided draft legislation for some of its proposals.
A tax break for school fees for children of IFSC executives who had moved to Ireland was opposed by the Revenue but included in the final legislation after further representations were made by the industry through the Clearing House Group mechanism.
The group also worked in concert with Government in opposing European Commission plans for a financial transaction tax.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath has also pointed “to a very high level of influence begin exercised by the IFSC on the Government”.
In his letter to the finance committee, Mr Fraser said the primary focus and objectives of the group were to provide a forum for the exchange of views and the co-ordination of public and private sector effort in developing the IFSC and employment.
In a parliamentary question last week, Mr Humphreys asked if it was appropriate for the Central Bank to sit on the group when it was the regulatory authority for many of the banks and financial houses at the IFSC.