Seanad Éireann - Volume 144 - 19 July, 1995

Consumer Credit Bill, 1994: Message from Dáil.

Acting Chairman: The House has received the following message from the Dáil:

(1) Dáil Éireann has agreed to amendments 1 to 28 inclusive, 30 to 76 inclusive, 78 to 126 inclusive, 128 to 140 inclusive and 142 to 146 inclusive made by Seanad Éireann to the Consumer Credit Bill, 1994.

(2) Dáil Éireann has not agreed to amendment 77 and desires that Seanad Éireann should not insist thereon.

(3) Dáil Éireann has agreed to amendment 29 with the following amendments thereto:

[1229] In paragraph (i), “, 146 (2) or 147 “deleted and “or 146 (2)” substituted.

In paragraph (j), “or 148 “deleted and “, 148 or 147” substituted.;

it has agreed to amendment 127 with the following amendment thereto:

The following subsection inserted at the end of the amendment:

“(2) The holder of a credit intermediaries authorisation to whom subsection (1) applies shall comply with the requirements of that subsection.”;

and it has agreed to amendment 141 with the following amendment thereto:

In the seventh last line of the amendment, “REVOKE” deleted and “WITHDRAW” substituted.,

to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired in each case.

(4) Dáil Éireann has made the following amendments consequential upon the acceptance of amendment 5:

In page 56, subsection (1), line 18, “consumer” deleted and “borrower” substituted.

In page 56, subsection (2) (a), line 25, “consumer” deleted and “borrower” substituted.

In page 57, subsection (3), line 36, “consumer” deleted and “borrower” substituted.

In page 57, subsection (3), line 37, “consumer” deleted and “borrower” substituted.

In page 58, subsection (1) (d), line 26, “consumer's” deleted and “borrower's” substituted.;

it has made the following amendment consequential upon the acceptance of amendment 21:

[1230] In page 12, subsection (1), line 27, “section 152” deleted and “Part XV” substituted.;

it has made the following amendment consequential upon the acceptance of amendments 49 and 49a:

In page 50, lines 39 to 48 and in page 51, lines 1 to 12, section 93 deleted.;

it has made the following amendment consequential upon the acceptance of amendment 87:

In page 40, line 43, after “section 61”, “or the Fifth Schedule” inserted.;

and it has made the following amendment consequential upon the acceptance of amendment 124:

In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 25 and 26, the following definition inserted:

“ ‘credit intermediaries authorisation’ means an authorisation granted under section 147;”.,

to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired in each case also.

Members can see the text of the message from the Dáil outlining its decision on the amendments made by the Seanad to the Consumer Credit Bill, 1994. On 30 June the Seanad returned the Consumer Credit Bill, 1994, to the Dáil with 152 amendments to which the agreement of the Dáil was sought. The Dáil considered those amendments and accepted the majority of them without change, but made additional changes in some instances which I shall now outline briefly.

In one instance, amendment No. 77, it found that the amendment was superfluous and, therefore, it did not agree to it. The Seanad must now decide whether it wishes to insist on that amendment. In three instances, amendments Nos. 29, 127 and 141, the Dáil accepted the amendments but made further amendments to them. The Seanad must now decide if it agrees to [1231] the additional amendments made by the Dáil. In five other instances, amendments Nos. 5, 21, 49, 87 and 124, the Dáil accepted the amendments made by the Seanad but found that further amendments were necessary, consequential on the acceptance of those amendments.

In each instance to which I referred I will be calling on the Leader to move a motion suggesting the action to be taken by the Seanad. I will then call the Minister to explain the decision taken by the Dáil. I remind Members that each Senator may only speak once on each motion.

Mr. Manning: Thank you for that very clear explanation. I move: “That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 77 made to the Consumer Credit Bill, 1994”.

Acting Chairman: I said I would call on the Minister to explain the decision made by the Dáil and I will adhere to that procedure.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Rabbitte): These amendments are consequential on the amendments put through in this House. Some technical changes are necessary to ensure that they are internally consistent in the Bill. That is their general purpose.

Updating the cross-reference in amendment No. 77 will happen automatically and the amendment is not required. Therefore, I will not move amendment No. 77. I wish to bring to Senators' attention that the reference in amendment No. 76, to inserted subsection (1), is a reference to subsection (1) inserted by way of amendment No. 74.

Mr. Dardis: The clarity of the Minister's explanation is inspiring. I am more confused than I was before. The way this Bill has been guided through both Houses is highly unsatisfactory. This is, in effect, a new Bill because so [1232] many amendments have been made to it. It is a tribute to the staff of both Houses, particularly the staff of the Seanad, that we have not encountered more difficulties. The capacity for mistakes is enormous as a result of the number of amendments and their consequential effects. I do not believe the House will insist that amendment No. 77 be retained.

There is an implication that this amendment was a result of an amendment put forward by the Opposition but that is not the case. Nearly all those adopted were Government amendments. Because of the Government's minority position in the Seanad, if we were to adopt an amendment which was then returned to the Dáil, would the same procedure be followed? Perhaps that is question should be addressed to the Chair or the Leader, not to the Minister. There is no need to unduly delay the House on that matter. It is extremely difficult——

Acting Chairman: When a Bill is initiated in the Dáil that situation would apply.

Mr. Dardis: It has been virtually impossible to conduct a meaningful debate on certain parts of the Bill because of the plethora of amendments and their consequential effects on other parts. This leads to a suspicion that things can be slipped into legislation without giving them due and adequate attention. It is our responsibility to carefully scrutinise legislation, deal with it effectively and ensure that it will be amended if required. Usually the Seanad fulfils that responsibility very well but it is extremely difficult to fulfil it in this instance. I know the Minister will take that on board. I can understand the reasons so many amendments were required. Nevertheless, it comes back to my central point that it would have been far better for the Bill to have been reintroduced in a redrafted form as we would not have experienced the confusion we have in this case. I do not know if it is necessary to deal with each [1233] amendment individually but perhaps there are procedural reasons for not taking them together.

Miss Ormonde: I agree with Senator Dardis in relation to the compilation of this Bill. It has taken all my time to understand the huge number of amendments put down. I do not understand why the Minister would want to bring it to this House in such a complicated form. It does not serve anybody to have legislation presented in this manner, it is clumsy and very badly presented.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the first amendment made by the Dáil to Seanad amendment No. 29”.

Mr. Rabbitte: These are technical amendments which correctly reposition the reference to section 147 — the nature of finance to be arranged — to be explained to the consumer. Subparagraph (1) sets out these sections in Part X, contravention of which results in a summary offence. As a result of Seanad amendment No. 123, section 147 was moved from Part X into a new Part XI entitled “Credit Intermediaries”. Subparagraph (j), which specifies those sections in Part XI contravention of which is a summary offence, is therefore the correct position for the reference to section 147.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the second amendment made by the Dáil to Seanad amendment No. 29”.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil to Seanad amendment No. 127.”.

[1234] Mr. Rabbitte: The amendment adopted on Committee Stage inserted a new section relating to the amendment of a credit intermediary's authorisation. It was necessary, on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, to include a provision whereby the holder of such an authorisation complies with the requirements of subsection (1) which caters for the situation where the licensee ceases to act on behalf of the undertaking specified in the authorisation or commences business for an undertaking not specified in the authorisation. The Director of Consumer Affairs or his staff are the only persons permitted to make such alterations.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil to Seanad amendment No. 141.”.

Mr. Rabbitte: The Seventh Schedule lays down the content of the written consent by the borrower to allow for the collection of repayments on foot of a moneylending agreement between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. This Schedule was inserted in the Bill by means of amendment No. 140 on Committee Stage. The former reference “Revoke” in the consent has now, on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, been replaced by the correct reference “Withdraw”.

Mr. Dardis: This underlines my earlier point. If we were to assume that the Bill had not been thus amended, the initial reference would have remained. It has been changed because somebody spotted the mistake when the Bill was returned to the Dáil for further consideration. That is why the word “Revoke” is being replaced with the word “Withdraw”. It would have been better if this had been dealt with originally rather than dealing with it in this manner. It is quite possible that legislation could have been adopted which contained the word “Revoke” rather [1235] than the word “Withdraw”. I accept the reason for the substitution.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: The motions on the five consequential amendments can be discussed together.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the first amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 5”.

Mr. Rabbitte: Section 104 deals with the repayment book which a moneylender is required to provide in respect of each moneylending transaction. Section 105 stipulates the records to be maintained by a moneylender. Throughout Part IX, which deals with moneylending, the previous references to “consumer” had already been replaced by the term “borrower”. In the interests of consistency it is also necessary to insert “borrower” in place of “consumer” in sections 104 and 105. Section 107 is concerned with moneylending agreements which include a collection charge. Again, in the interests of consistency, the term “consumers” on page 28, line 56 has been replaced by the word “borrowers”.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the second amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 5.”

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the second amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 5.”

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the third amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 5.”

Question put and agreed to.

[1236] Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the fourth amend-made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 5.”

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 21.”

Mr. Rabbitte: This amendment relates to the definition of “moneylender”. A moneylender does not include, among others, any pawnbroker carrying on the business of pawnbroking in accordance with the provisions of the Pawnbrokers Act, 1964. This Act has been amended by not alone section 152 but also by sections 151 and 153 which, taken together, comprise Part XV. This is the purpose of this amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendments Nos. 49 and 49 a”.

Mr. Rabbitte: Amendment No. 49, which was adopted on Committee Stage in this House, had the effect of inserting a new section 49 in the Bill. The new section 49 deals with the advertising of consumer hire agreements. Therefore, the former section 93, which also dealt with the advertising of consumer hire agreements was superfluous and it was necessary to delete it.

Question put and agreed to.

[1237] Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 87”.

Mr. Rabbitte: Section 63 deals with the making of ministerial regulations as regards the amendment or modification of the form and content of hire purchase agreements. The present insertion of the reference to the Fifth Schedule is necessary because this schedule comprises a notice to be included in hire purchase agreements relating to the right of the hirer to terminate the agreement.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Manning: I move: “That the Seanad do agree to the amendment made by the Dáil consequential on its agreement to Seanad amendment No. 124”.

Mr. Rabbitte: This amendment introduced into the Bill for the first time the definition of credit intermediaries authorisation. The new section 147, which was inserted by means of an amendment on Committee Stage in this House, lays down the procedure on applications for and the grant of authorisations by the Director of Consumer Affairs to credit intermediaries.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: That completes the Bill and a message will be sent to the Dáil informing it of our decisions.

Mr. Manning: I compliment the Minister for having steered this major Bill through the House. It has been a learning curve for all of us, not least for the Minister. I thank the Opposition for the great consideration it has shown in agreeing to take this complicated business today. This was not the ideal way to do business and we hope we will not have to do so in this way again.

[1238] Miss Ormonde: I thank the Minister. I re-echo Senator Manning's point that the Bill has been a learning curve for us and I hope we do not have to repeat the procedure with regard to other Bills which will come forward. I was disappointed to have to work through the Bill in this way. This was not satisfactory but we passed the Bill and I hope we will learn from this experience.

Mr. Dardis: I welcome the improvements which have been made to the Bill. I hope it will be successful and I know this is the Minister's intention. The Bill has been extremely complicated. Earlier we spoke about eminent senior counsel. It would take a very eminent senior counsel to follow some of the procedural matters here. I am glad the Bill has passed.

Mr. Rabbitte: I thank Members for facilitating the enactment of this important legislation before the summer recess. I particularly thank the Members of the Opposition for their co-operation. Although it had to be dealt with under the imperative of the brief time we had before both Houses rose, the alternative of rewriting the Bill, as has been suggested, would, at a minimum, have deferred its enactment.

I do not pretend to challenge Senator Dardis on his point about a person needing to be an eminent senior counsel to follow some of the complex amendments. The Bill is complex and perhaps some of the amendments might have been foreseen. I would not like to over stress the amendment the Senator chose to make his point, which referred to “withdraw” and “revoke”. I do not think a great deal would have hinged on this if the appalling vista he envisages happened. Many of the amendments involved tidying up, repositioning and restructuring the Bill; for example, a provision for uniform advertising was inserted but we found that another section which dealt with advertising became superfluous.

The Bill was processed under pressure. It has been scrutinised and has been [1239] a long time in gestation. This is not a sufficient excuse or defence to make to Members but it took a great deal of time for the Bill to go through the system. If Ministers are amenable, as I and my predecessor have been, to take amendments on board, this, per se, ought not to be criticised. This is a tribute to the Committee Stage process. An argument may be made that the Bill should not have escaped from the parliamentary draftsman's office as early as it did but we are now all agreed that we have an infinitely better Bill than the one introduced in the other House. This is a good day for consumers, the Bill is good and I greatly appreciate the House facilitating it.