Thursday, 17 December 2020
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Tánaiste for his comments on supporting a cap on the interest charged by moneylenders. I acknowledge that Fianna Fáil supported the legislation two years ago, and while the Tánaiste's Government of the time did not, I welcome his remarks now.
We need to deal with this issue. The Bill is under pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. Numerous submissions have been received that address the point the Tánaiste raised, which is a concern we all have about whether the Bill would open a market for illegal moneylenders. I will cite the University College Cork report, which is the expert report in this regard, "However, there is no empirical and undisputed evidence that interest rate restrictions result in an increase in illegal moneylending." It points to how the UK stopped exorbitant pay day loans and this did not result in illegal moneylending. As the Tánaiste acknowledged, there would still be the avenue of the credit union movement.
We need to put some urgency and commitment into this matter. As the legislation's sponsor, I am open to accepting amendments and to its provisions being introduced on a tiered basis, but let us work collectively as a House to ensure that 2021 is the year when the interest rates of moneylenders are capped and we stop accepting that moneylenders can charge customers 187% APR. We know what happens at this time of year. Moneylenders prey on people's vulnerability. The pandemic has exposed that in a greater way. There is a duty on us as legislators to protect individuals from this type of lending activity.