Tuesday 12 December 2017

Attempts by Fianna Fáil to embarrass Government on issues such as variable mortgage rates could be blocked in future - Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle, in Washington

ATTEMPTS by Fianna Fáil to embarrass the Government with a series of motions on issues such as variable mortgage rates could be blocked in future, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has indicated.

With the new Fine Gael-led government set to lose its first Dáil vote tonight, Mr Kenny said a new committee will be set up next week to scrutinise motions before they are voted on by TDs.

Mr Kenny, who is missing the debate on how to reduce variable mortgage interest rates due to a visit to Washington, said the Central Bank does not want the powers Fianna Fáil are trying to give it.

"We have agreements with Fianna Fáil in terms of confidence and budgetary matters and so on. Minority governments can not work in a majority way. On occasions there will be defeats for the government.

"In this case I wrote as Taoiseach on a couple of occasions tot eh central bank asking them if they wanted to have the powers to deal with variable mortgaged interest rates and they said they did not need those powers and didn't wish to have them," he said.

Mr Kenny said that Fine Gael is seeking amendments to the Fianna Fáil motion seeking legislation in the area - but accepted this is unlikely to accepted by the majority of the Dáil.

However, he added: "So what the Fine Gael party have done in the changes that we are brining about in the way the Dail does its business is that any private members bill from next week, it will be mandatory for all those bills to go to the pre-legislative scrutiny facility committee that doesn't happen in this particular week so the vote has been placed tonight."

He said the Fianna Fáil proposal will go to committee stage if passed by the Dáil "and everyone will have their opportunity to tease out what it is they want to say about it and about the implications".

"I can't direct that the Fianna Fáil party do not put their bill. That is what a minority government is about. But we are the majority party in the Government and we have to stand up for what we believe in government also outside the conditions of the agreements that we have both with the Fianna Fáil party and the Programme for Government.

"We are standing clearly of the view that the more competition there is amongst banks the greater opportunity there is to reduce variable rates. I know this is real pressure point for people.

"This is a motion before the Dail, an amendment to the bill, but if the motion is defeated this evening it will go to committee stage and will be debated there.

"It does deal with property rights and our consitutniional law is something to be teased out. The Central Bank themselves have said they don't require this power. The bill I think says that it may be used, it does not mean it would be used. A bill is being presented, an amendment, that will be voted on this evening."

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