Seanad debates

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013: Committee Stage


4:05 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister of State. The Public Service Friendly Society promises guaranteed acceptance for its health benefits. That arose because Government was concerned about selectivity in the area and it brought in a lot of legislation. That is a minor point.

There seems to be a complete difference of opinion between what is done in the United Kingdom and here. I hope the Government’s concern with new entities does not reflect any pressure from banks because we are sowing the seeds of far more financial troubles in this country with the pillar bank strategy. This will be an appalling duopoly. Senators referred on the Order of Business to foreign banks withdrawing from their regions. I am sure the expertise lives in the Central Bank now but we recall the 84 times when the official in a recent High Court action could not remember anything. That was not much in the way of regulatory expertise. We are assuming a completely different kind of Central Bank from the one that featured recently in the courts. That was abysmal regulation.

I will speak with the Minister of State between now and Report Stage so I will not press this amendment. The Minister of State knows my concerns. Why are the friendly societies regarded as an avenue for malpractice and so on? Might they be better regulated? Might we learn something from the UK experience, which I quoted and which will be available in the Official Report? Compared with what has happened in the rest of the financial services, these were much more idealistic and still are. They are formed by people acting in a co-operative manner for their mutual benefit.

That is something we might consider.

As of today, we have raised thoughts about how friendly societies might be preserved, protected and grow. I may speak with the Minister, as we do when we meet in the corridors around here, to see if we can deal with the fears he has mentioned. Is the House correct in assuming new friendly societies would represent a threat to people's well-being and livelihood? That would be said but compared to some of the people on the list, any damage - which is minuscule compared to the major benefits - would pale into insignificance. For example, one institution was led by a man who has stated he does not want to give any evidence about his activities to these Houses of Parliament, and people have said such things before. In all of this I remain an advocate of the friendly societies. I will think about what the Minister of State has indicated before now and the next Stage. I certainly would not have chosen them as a target, stipulating that from this day we will never again allow friendly societies to be established in this jurisdiction.


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