White calls for consensus approach to banking inquiry
“I welcome publication by the Public Accounts Committee of an analysis of options for the holding of a parliamentary inquiry into the banking collapse.
We are now four years on from the events of 2008 and many questions remain unanswered, including why the Fianna Fail/Green government embarked on the controversial bank guarantee of 29 September 2008.
As I have indicated to Minister Brendan Howlin, the holding of a banking inquiry has been considered by the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform, as part of our work programme.
Legal advice contained in the PAC report states that the Public Accounts Committee, given the nature of its role, is not currently empowered to hold an inquiry of the type envisaged. For that committee to hold a banking inquiry, significant amendments to its terms of reference would be required.
The Public Accounts Committee performs an extremely important function – essentially as an audit committee. The Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform is responsible for parliamentary oversight of banking, banking regulation, and government policy in these areas.
The three “pillars” recommended by the PAC for consideration in any inquiry are: the bank guarantee; the role of the banks; and the role of State institutions. Each of these is squarely in the policy domain. Indeed, the Finance & PER Committee has been dealing with banking and banking regulation on a continuous basis, most recently in hearings regarding the Ulster Bank failure.
That said, I want to agree very much with the PAC’s recommendation that “the views of the wider membership of the Dail be sought in order to build consensus, clarify expectations and design an inquiry that successfully addresses as many issues as possible”.
The general election of 2011 brought many new members into the Oireachtas, with a wealth of talent and commitment. Like those who elected us, we all want to see an effective inquiry into what happened. It may be that the government and the Oireachtas would consider drawing on the skills and expertise of a broad range of parliamentarians, bearing in mind the need for full public confidence in such an exercise, which should be devoid of party political controversy.”