The Government has avoided its first legislative defeat by not challenging to a vote a Fianna Fá
il Private Members' Bill giving the Central Bank the power to regulate mortgage interest rates.
The Government did not press its amendment that the Bill be referred to a pre-legislative stage and it then passed second stage. It now goes to committee stage.
There was applause from the Fianna Fáil benches when the Bill was passed.
The Fianna Fáil Bill measure, known as the Central Bank (Variable Rate Mortgages) Bill 2016, received Opposition support and would have passed comfortably if challenged to a vote.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had warned the Bill was flawed and challenged its constitutionality.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said there was a danger bad Bills could become bad law.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said it was bizarre that there was no reference to the Bill’s constitutionality when it was first debated last July.
He dismissed Mr Noonan’s claim on Tuesday night that the publication of the Bill had led to a fall in bank shares. “That was uncalled for and inaccurate, in my opinion,’’ he added.
When the debate on the Bill resumed yesterday night, AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett said he welcomed it insofar as it attempted to address the issue of profiteering by the banks in terms of interest rates.
It was a positive move to try to introduce measures to enable the State, the Government and Central Bank to intervene where the market had failed, he added.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said one of the frustrations of borrowers in recent years was the hands-off approach which existed when it came to individual mortgage-holders.
She said there was a feeling of unfairness that the decisions had been made in favour of the banks, at the expense of clients and customers.
AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy said it was an accepted fact that holders of standard variable rate mortgages were being exploited and ripped off.
They were paying about 2 per cent over the European rate, which represented an extra €330 a month for those with a €200,000 mortgage. “That is a huge burden and hardship for low- and middle-income householders and is having a significant deflationary effect on the economy,’’ he added.
Labour TD Seán Sherlock said the flaws referred to by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan could be dealt with at committee level.