Thursday, 17 December 2015
Bankruptcy (Amendment) Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages
I have just come to make this comment. However belatedly, I welcome the Bill and, as others have done, I commend Deputy Willie Penrose on his initiative in pushing this issue. However, it is a sad reflection on this Administration that it has taken until the dying days of the current Oireachtas for it to be introduced. Many people in the House, particularly on this side, argued from the time the Government came into office that there was a blatant need to address the position regarding discharge from bankruptcy, which then stood at 12 years. The neighbouring island addressed it with a one-year term but we were still at 12. It took the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, three years to bring it to the House before he was sacked. When he did come forward with legislation, it was inadequate and only made provision to reduce the term to three years.We argued at the time that it should be reduced to one year. I recall making the point that we were facing unprecedented economic circumstances. I heard people criticise those who got into financial difficulties. Obviously, over-leveraging was the cause of many of our problems but there was tremendous economic growth during the period that led to it. The one thing this country now needs is investment and risk-takers. It is simply not good enough that all the cards were given to the banks in regard to this. Nothing has been done about insolvency. We introduced insolvency legislation, which was highlighted here as manifestly inadequate in that power of veto was given to the banks in respect of our proposals. Of course, we see that it has not functioned at all in the manner in which everybody in these Houses would have liked.
In the current economic circumstances, a bankruptcy term of one year is appropriate before one is discharged. In normal economic circumstances, one year may well be too short. The term of one year is needed for an interim period but, once the economy is stabilised and credit is flowing in the normal way, unlike at present, a three-year term should be considered as the optimum. However the proposed period is definitely needed and I commend those concerned on its introduction, however belatedly. I give no credit to the Government but to one Member of the Houses, Deputy Willie Penrose, for producing the Bill. The Bill has forced us to consider this issue and it shows that Private Members' efforts do work effectively, certainly in this instance.