Finance worry at response to mortgage data query

Jim Daly: No confidence in the Central Bank to monitor banks.

The Department of Finance has expressed disquiet with Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan for failing to share full information on mortgage matters before the Dáil.

Second secretary with the department Ann Nolan wrote to Mr Honohan over Fine Gael TD Jim Daly’s query for the need for the Central Bank to clarify the number of distressed mortgages converted from tracker to variable rates as part of restructuring solutions offered to borrowers.

Ms Nolan enclosed the Dáil debate on the issue, where Mr Daly told the Dáil he has “been sent around the houses and down every avenue” by the Central Bank in pursuit of the information.

“To this day, I remain confused, exasperated, and unsure of how to get the information,” said Mr Daly. 

“I am at a complete loss to understand how the Central Bank does not know how many mortgages have been moved in the last number of years from a tracker to a variable rate.

“I was told on the telephone that it has the information while I was told in letter it does not have it.”

He said a senior official at the Central Bank told him on the phone “that the Central Bank does know the amount of mortgage accounts moved from tracker to variable rates — but only for accounts in arrears”.

Following the Dáil debate, Ms Nolan wrote to Mr Honohan on July 13 requesting that the information be provided to Mr Daly or, if the data is not available, an explanation why.

In her letter, released by the Central Bank through the Freedom of Information Act, Ms Nolan writes: “In preparing for Dáil discussions on matters related to the Central Bank, the department has to generally rely on the information supplied by the bank. 

"Consequently, it is essential that we are provided with full information to ensure that satisfactory responses are provided.

“In preparing for yesterday’s discussion, department officials were in contact with their counterparts in the Central Bank and the information used in the response as delivered by [Finance Minister Michael] Noonan was based on material provided by the bank.

“However, a more appropriate response could have been provided if we had been aware of the specifics of Deputy Daly’s ongoing engagement with the Central Bank.

“I think you will agree that it is in the best interest of both of our organisations to ensure that the minister is comprehensively briefed and that full information is available and shared when dealing with matters of Dáil business.”

Yesterday, Mr Daly confirmed he has since received a letter from Mr Honohan on the issue. 

However, he said he “is none the wiser” over the issue as a result of Mr Honohan’s letter.

“Anecdotally, I am told by constituents that banks are moving people in arrears and under pressure off their tracker onto variable rates,” he said.

“At this stage, I don’t know if the Central Bank has the figures. If it doesn’t, it should have.”

Mr Daly said he has now “lost confidence in the Central Bank to monitor the banks here on this matter”.

In his letter to Mr Daly, Mr Honohan said: “The Central Bank has not seen any evidence to suggest that borrowers in arrears on their primary residences have been moved from their tracker rates as part of their alternative repayment arrangements.”

Mr Honohan later told Mr Daly the deputy had previously inquired about the number of borrowers who have converted from a tracker rate to a standard variable rate. 

Mr Honohan said: “We can confirm that the Central Bank does not collect data on this topic.”


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