Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)

Last December my party colleague, Deputy Michael McGrath, tabled an amendment to the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2011 to give the Financial Services Ombudsman the power to name financial institutions in breach of codes of conduct. Members will have seen the report for 2010 which states 7,200 complaints about financial institutions were made by members of the public, many of which were related to institutions not adhering to the statutory code of conduct on mortgage arrears. The problem that arises in this regard is that the ombudsman is toothless. While he can publish a report, he cannot name the institutions in breach of or not following the procedures correctly. I, therefore, ask the Leader to liaise with the Minister for Finance on whether he proposes to accept the amendment tabled in December by Deputy Michael McGrath to the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (Amendment) Bill 2011. It is in all of our interests to know which financial institutions are adhering to Government policy and statutory codes of conduct. Issuing a report indicating the number and type of complaints made without pinpointing the financial institutions involved does not go far enough.

During our debate on 8 February on Second Stage of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011, Committee and Remaining Stages of which are being taken today, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, confirmed that the warmer homes scheme initiated by the previous Government, under which approximately 6,000 jobs had been created, had supported 5,800 jobs last year and that this year, owing to a cut in the grant available for external insulation works, in particular, from €4,000 to €1,800, it would only support 4,500 jobs, a decrease of 1,300.

I have met people involved in small construction firms who have diversified into this area. The construction sector has been hit more than any other by the current crisis and I have been told that at least 1,600 jobs have been lost in it since announcement of the budget. A debate on the jobs plan which I am reading and does not state additional money will be made available in this regard is due to take place in the House soon. More than €35 million has been cut from the allocation for the warmer homes scheme which is supporting people involved in an industry which has been hammered during the past few years. This makes no sense, as Ireland is required to meet its energy targets by 2020. This is to be achieved by way of the conservation of energy and having warmer homes which can only be done through the creation of employment in the construction sector in which some 1,600 jobs have been lost since the announcement in the budget of a cut in funding for the warmer homes scheme.

I ask the Leader to raise this issue with the Minister for Finance. I will also be raising it again today with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, as it is an issue of concern to all Members of the House. The scheme supports jobs. The Minister has confirmed that there are at least 1,300 fewer in the sector. My figure is 1,600. I would appreciate it if the Leader would raise the matter with the Minister for Finance.


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