Committee of British MPs to review how banking system works in Northern Ireland

MPs to scrutinise the impact of Nama on property market in the North

Tory MP Laurence Robertson will chair the committee investigating NI banking. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Tory MP Laurence Robertson will chair the committee investigating NI banking. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

 


The impact of the National Asset Management Agency on property prices in Northern Ireland and the role the Republic plays in the banking sector there are set to form part of a wider inquiry by British MPs into the operation of the financial system in the province.

The House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Affairs Committee intends to primarily look at the structure and governance of banks that operate in the North.

The committee also intends to closely examine how bank customers in Northern Ireland are affected by debts that are owned by non-UK banks and what role the Republic plays in the local banking structure.

It has specified that it wants to look at the impact that Nama is having locally and the effect that asset sales by the agency has had on property prices.

At the end of 2012, 3 per cent of Nama’s total property portfolio was located in Northern Ireland while 1 per cent or €100 million of its disposals up to the end of last year had occurred there. The agency originally paid €1.3 billion for loans connected with Northern Ireland.

Nama has a Northern Ireland advisory committee as part of its governance structure. It also operates a dedicated email channel of communication for members of the Northern Ireland assembly to raise issues of concern to their constituents.

Nama declined to comment yesterday on whether or not it would be prepared to engage with this committee.


Structural differences
Chaired by the Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, the committee will also investigate whether there is a difference in the structure of banks in the North as opposed to how they operate in the rest of the UK.

It is keen to establish if Northern Ireland bank customers – private and business – suffer any disadvantages as a result of the local banking system.

It will also compare how banks that operate in Britain and Northern Ireland, such as Barclays and Santander, structure their business in the North.

Although the Stormont Finance Committee has addressed ongoing banking issues and held several evidence-gathering sessions with bank chiefs, including Ulster Bank’s Ellvena Graham, this is the first time that the structure of the sector locally will come under scrutiny from the House of Commons.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will conduct a wide-ranging review of the local banking system and will examine in detail key issues such as what the consequences might be for local Ulster Bank customers if there was any potential change to the structure of its parent, the RBS Group.

There has been speculation that the UK treasury has mooted the idea of persuading the Irish Government to take control of Ulster Bank in return for assuming British loans held by Nama.