Tabling of some Nama changes to wait until Seanad

 

THE GOVERNMENT will not be in a position to table some of the more complex amendments to the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) legislation in time for the report stage of the Bill in the Dáil this week, it was confirmed last night.

The amendments will instead be introduced when the Bill goes to the Seanad next week where all five stages of the legislation will be debated by the Upper House between Monday and Wednesday.

This latest delay in tabling amendments was last night criticised by the Opposition, who said the Government was producing the legislation on the hoof. The Department of Finance said some amendments were very complex and would be delayed but it was not in a position yesterday to say which would be held back by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan until the Seanad next week.

Because the amendments are being introduced in the Seanad for the first time, the Bill must return to the Dáil once more after that.

The Government Chief Whip Pat Carey told The Irish Times the Bill would return to the Dáil on November 12th but maintained it was always envisaged some amendments would be introduced in the Seanad. However, Fine Gael deputy spokesman on finance Kieran O’Donnell expressed bemusement, contending the last thing needed with such a vitally important piece was surprise amendments at the last minute.

“The special purposes vehicle amendment came out of orbit last week. At this critical stage, it’s worrying that we are still awaiting legislative details. Nama has been seven months in process since April 8th and will take many more months before it’s up and running.”

The Labour Party spokeswoman on finance, Joan Burton, said: “After seven months, the Government has still not finalised its proposals as Mr Lenihan has indicated that he will be tabling further extensive amendments at report stage. This makes it very difficult for the Opposition to do its job and also means that it is essential that the Dáil be given adequate time for debate on the legislation.”

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan expressed confidence the legislation will be in place by Christmas.Speaking in Cork, Ms Coughlan described the Bill as “a marathon piece of legislation” but said Mr Lenihan had honoured his pledge to consider any proper alternative proposals.

The Government’s planned amendments include a controversial new tax surcharge on bank profits to cover any potential losses on the Nama operation. It replaces the original plan to levy the banks if Nama made a loss.

There are also plans to place obligations on banks to ensure a credit supply to business and for the creation of a new Oireachtas committee to oversee the agency.

Fine Gael said it will be bringing amendments on the special purpose vehicles; on a larger role for the Comptroller and Auditor General; on subordinated debt provisions to cover the €7 billion long-term economic value estimation, and initiatives to get credit flowing.

The Labour Party will table amendments aimed at increasing transparency, oversight and supervision of Nama; providing additional taxpayer protection; and placing restrictions on the powers the Minister for Finance is seeking.