Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed)

30.04.2012

http://debates.oireachtas.ie/seanad/2012/04/30/00003.asp

Senator Zappone

I am in agreement with the Minister on much of what she has said. However, I think the argument in some ways is effectively to force the lenders to ensure that they are participating in that code of conduct. It is to force the lenders to do that for a period of a year because, as Senator Byrne has indicated, even though the lender is obliged to explore alternative payment options, as the Minister has identified and all the different criteria such as those of the Central Bank, they are not obliged, ultimately, to offer any alternative repayment options. Therefore, for that period of a year at this stage, the Minister is almost saying she is forcing the lender at least to engage and to ensure the lender is following that code of conduct for that year. However, the people who are in difficulty will no longer receive the mortgage interest supplement. From the statistics provided by the Minister, 37% of those - I may be misinterpreting those figures - are on mortgage interest supplement for a year or less. Is it the case that as we move forward, that large percentage of people will not have access for that year? As the Minister rightly points out, it ought to be and should be short-term support, but what is short-term support and would it not be within that first period of one year? As I suggested in my opening remarks, I wonder if this amendment is moving towards abolishing the scheme, as distinct from attempting to provide a short-term support within that period of a year.

I refer to the interim report of the expert group on mortgage arrears, the Cooney group, which recommended a six-month deferral as distinct from a 12-month deferral. I ask why the Minister chose six months instead of 12 months but this amendment, without adequate protections for the borrowers that may be put in place when that personal insolvency legislation is ultimately enacted, is effectively taking away any type of short-term support for borrowers.

Financial Justice
Financial Justice
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