Personal Insolvency Bill details withheld
THE MAIN provisions of the long-awaited Personal Insolvency Bill, including the question of banks retaining vetoes in respect of loans, will not be disclosed by the Government until Friday.
The Cabinet yesterday approved the mammoth piece of legislation, which runs to more than 200 pages, and will reform insolvency laws, some of which have been in place for over a century.
The development was announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at a news conference.
“There is probably no time, since the Land War, when the Irish people have felt so stressed, so anxious about their home and their family’s future security,” said Mr Kenny.
“This is why we established a special Cabinet committee on mortgage arrears which has worked intensively to develop this strategy.”
However, neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste were prepared to answer questions on the content of the Bill, other than restating its general principles and purpose.
The conference was consequently seen as an effort by both leaders to show a united Government front after disparate comments by Ministers on the budget and the Croke Park agreement.
In a related development, the Government’s economic management council – comprising the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin – met representatives of the main banks last night to brief them on the legislation, and also to establish what moves banks had taken on the Keane report, which recommended ways to deal with distressed mortgages.
Mr Kenny said yesterday that when published the legislation would give a clear incentive for the banks to sit down with borrowers and work out bilateral agreements.
He said the Dáil would sit late and on Fridays to ensure early passage of the Bill, but indicated an enactment date as late as October.
The Tánaiste emphasised several times that the legislation would provide no easy answers or quick fix. Mr Gilmore said: “We are not promising easy answers or soft options. The legacy of debt distress and mortgage arrears will not disappear overnight.
“What we are offering is a fair and reasonable process to allow families deal with the problem of unsustainable mortgage debt.”
Following last night’s meeting, AIB chief executive David Duffy said he was supportive of the legislation and the bank was working to align itself with its requirements.
The key reform of the Bill will be a reduction of the period before a bankruptcy can be discharged from 12 years to three years, when certain conditions are met. But full details will not be disclosed until the Bill is published on Friday.
At that stage, detailed briefings will be given on their respective sections of the Bill by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, and Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan.
Ms O’Sullivan will also announce details of mortgage-to-rent and local authority mortgage schemes tomorrow.