Bill offering State guarantee of up to €4bn passed without debate on liability

Opposition condemn Government guillotine of debate as farcical and a joke

Stephen Donnelly: no ratification of a State guarantee by the Dáil. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Stephen Donnelly: no ratification of a State guarantee by the Dáil. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 01:23

Opposition TDs have condemned as farcical and a joke the guillotining of debate on a Bill that contains potential liabilities of €4 billion in State guarantees.

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland Bill establishes a “bank” to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with capital funding, which will be provided by the German state’s promotional bank KfW, the European Investment Bank and the National Pension Reserve Fund.

The Bill, which passed all stages yesterday, was criticised by Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath, who said the Government was leaving the credit decisions about SMEs in the hands of the banks, which had “starved the economy of the essential new lending it requires”.

They waited three years for the Bill, and then were given little more than three hours to debate it, with no scrutiny by committee beforehand, a move the Government had pledged for all legislation.

Mr McGrath said “it is a joke that we are required to put through a legislative measure of this importance in this manner. It is unacceptable and farcical.”

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said “this is a €5 billion fund for lending to SMEs with up to €4 billion of a State guarantee provided by the Minister for Finance with no ratification by the Dáil”.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said “this is not a Bill about investing a couple of hundred million euro of taxpayers’ money in an area of the economy. It is a Bill that contains potential liabilities in the order of billions of euro.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was “absolutely shocking” that they did not even have time to deal with the issue of the State guarantee.

Minister of State Ciaran Cannon, who introduced the Bill, said it would provide SMEs with access to “intelligent capital that will increase productive investment”.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who dealt with amendments, said of the guarantees that the potential exposure of the State had been limited to €4 billion.