Donohoe calls for cost review of SF 'vulture fund bill'

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said independent analysis of Sinn Féin's divisive 'no consent, no sale' bill, targeting better protection of mortgage holders, is "essential" before it is allowed to further progress through the Oireachtas.

The proposed legislation aims to prevent the banks from selling customers' home loans without the borrower's approval. However, it has been criticised by the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the ECB. The Department said it could push up mortgage interest rates, make it harder to get a homeloan, reduce competition in the mortgage lending market, restrict Irish banks' ability to access credit and reduce the value of the State's shareholdings in the main banks.

The Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee had been due yesterday to begin scrutinising and amending a draft report on the bill produced last week; before passing a final report to the select committee.

However, disagreements over the window of opportunity granted to deputies for lodging amendments led to the meeting's main business being postponed to tomorrow.

Agreement was not reached on whether or not to commission an independent cost analysis of the bill, despite Mr Donohoe saying his Department would foot the bill for the neutral input.

Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty - who proposed the bill - said that while he was happy for an independent review to be carried out, the joint committee should agree in principle to progress the bill anyway. Otherwise, he said, the move would just be a stalling mechanism aimed at "scuttling" the bill.

Fine Gael senator Kieran O'Donnell said agreeing to forward the bill without considering independent advice would be like "starting to build a house and applying for planning later". He said outside analysis would be "very supportive",

His Fianna Fáil counterpart Gerry Horkan said the analysis could be useful in influencing the final report.

The committee coincided with the launch of a not-for-profit alternative to vulture funds, called Homeoptions, which is looking to buy distressed mortgages from the banks and keep in-arrears borrowers in their homes.

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