Senator Katherine Zappone
I wish to ask about the heads of the Bill on personal insolvency released recently by the Minister for Justice and Equality. I heartily welcome the publication of the heads of the Bill as there is great promise in them and they contain many of the elements that a modern system should contain. They also form part of the Government’s response to implementing the recommendations of the Keane report.
As many of us are aware, the proposals for reform involve the introduction of a new judicial and non-judicial bankruptcy and debt settlements system. However, I was particularly heartened to see head 132 which refers to guidelines on reasonable expenditure and essential income for debtors, of which non-judicial debt settlements must take account. This gives us scope for utilising a minimum income standard for courts dealing with households in debt. I draw the Seanad’s attention to research published yesterday by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice on defining what such a standard should be for various household types in Ireland.
I also note the debate in the Dáil last week on Deputy Stephen Donnelly’s Family Home Protection (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, the objective of which was to give judges some discretion when hearing cases where a mortgage lender seeks to repossess a family home. They have no discretion at the moment. Supposedly, that is a constitutional issue but the Minister has indicated he will look at it.
Will the Leader consider inviting the Minister to the Seanad to discuss these and other relevant issues prior to the publication of the Bill itself which is scheduled for the end of April? The Minister, in his wisdom, is seeking submissions from the public, so perhaps he might also come to this House to hear our views.