Dáil Éireann - Volume 682 - 13 May, 2009

Written Answers. - Financial Institutions Support Scheme.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if in return for guarantees given to the banks, he has sought commitment to ensure that lending policies facilitate the generation of employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19279/09]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has given instructions to banking and financial institutions in the aftermath of the various salvage packages with a view to providing the necessary capital for the business sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19280/09]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received commitments from the banking sector in the context of the regeneration of the economy following the [588] various State rescue packages offered to the banking system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19281/09]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if direction has been given to the various lending agencies with a view to the provision of employment generating projects in the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19282/09]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the steps taken to ensure that the lending agencies become aware of the need to provide adequate working capital to the business sector in the present climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19284/09]

  Deputy Brian Lenihan: I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 to 149, inclusive, and 151 together.

A core Government objective is to free up lending on a commercial basis into the economy to support economic growth. In the context of the bank guarantee scheme and recapitalisation the banks have made important commitments to support business lending. A Code of Conduct for Business Lending to Small and Medium Enterprises was published by the Financial Regulator on 13 February and took effect on 13 March. This code applies to all regulated banks and building societies and will facilitate access to credit, promote fairness and transparency and ensure that banks will assist borrowers in meeting their obligations, or otherwise deal with an arrears situation in an orderly and appropriate manner. The business lending code includes a requirement for banks to offer their business customers annual review meetings, to inform customers of the basis for decisions made and to have written procedures for the proper handling of complaints. Where a customer gets into difficulty the banks will give the customer reasonable time and seek to agree an approach to resolve problems and to provide appropriate advice. This is a statutory code and banks will be required to demonstrate compliance.

In addition, as part of the recapitalisation package announced on 11 February, Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland reconfirmed their December commitment to increase lending capacity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by 10% and to provide an additional 30% capacity for lending to first time buyers in 2009. If the mortgage lending is not taken up, then the extra capacity will be available to SMEs. AIB and Bank of Ireland have also committed to public campaigns to actively promote small business lending at competitive rates with increased transparency on the criteria to be met. Compliance with this commitment will be monitored by the Financial Regulator. The banks make quarterly reports, with the first reports to end March 2009 to hand. Officials from my Department are also in regular contact with the banks concerned in relation to their progress on implementing these measures.

Furthermore, the banks have agreed to engage in a “clearing group” chaired by a Government representative and including representation from business interests and State agencies. The purpose of this group will be to identify specific patterns of events or cases where the flow of credit to viable businesses appears to be blocked and to seek to identify credit supply solutions. Any questions on the clearing group should be directed to my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

An independent review of credit availability, funded by the banks but managed jointly by the banks, Government and business representatives is also underway and will be completed shortly. Amongst the issues covered by this review will be changes in bank lending, repayment terms and a comparison with customer experiences prior to the onset of the financial crisis. I am satisfied that this review, along with the quarterly reports from the recapitalised institutions, [589] will give a clear picture regarding the flow of credit in the Irish economy which will inform future policy.