Monday, February 11, 2013

11/2/2013: What's David Hall's Case is Now About?

In light of the recent changes to the IBRC position and the Promo Notes, there can be some confusion around the case David Hall has taken against the Minister for finance. In particular, the confusion can arise due to the claims that we have made a "deal" on the promissory note and in light of the IBRC Bill 2013 provisions (Article 17). Let me try to (speculatively, I must add) shed some light.

The promissory notes were a product of the Credit Institutions (Financial Support) Act 2008 passed by the Dail Eireann on October 2, 2008. More specifically, the Minister for Finance, in allocating capital funds to the insolvent Irish banking institutions (see more of the background on this here: ), relied upon the provisions of the 2008 Act, Section 6. However, article 6.3 of the Act clearly stated that “Financial support shall not be provided under this section for any period beyond 29th September 2010, and any financial support provided under this section shall not continue beyond that date.” Furthermore, the Minister was given such powers (limited by the above date) to appropriate “all money to be paid out or non-cash assets to be given by the Minister… may be paid out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof” (Section 6(12)).

Furthermore, to the point of Defense in the case, Article 6(4) of the Act stipulates that “Financial support may be provided under this section in a form and manner determined by the Minister and on such commercial or other terms and conditions as the Minister thinks fit. Such provision of financial support may be effected by individual agreement, a scheme made by the Minister or otherwise.” This section is still covered by the 29th September 2010 cut-off date, but in so far as it covers (potentially) multiannual commitments created before that date but with a maturity beyond that date, it is unclear if this section covers the duration of the original Promissory Notes. Regardless of whether it does or not, the section is constrained explicitly by Section 6(5) which states: “Where the Minister proposes to make a scheme under subsection (4) – (a) he or she shall cause draft of the proposed scheme to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and (b) he or she shall not make the scheme unless and until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.”

David Hall is claiming that in a democracy and under article 17 of the Irish Constitution the Dail and our elected representatives have the power to appropriate funds from the central fund (which, like all the rest of the Government funds, is made up of receipts and our taxes).

The point here is that David Hall is saying that it is not constitutional that one person, namely the Minister for Finance, or any future Minister for Finance, could spend monies (or future moneys) through issuance of bonds, various securities, even using another Promissory Note without any upper limit being set on such payouts and without any cabinet or Dail approval or vote.

According to David Hall’s case, this constitutes the core threat to the democracy enlisted within his claim. He believes that under the constitution that TD should have to vote on such expenditure and that they cannot give away their constitutional powers.

The fact that the current Promissory Note (and only in relation to IBRC notes) has been changed and eliminated does not alter the risk of future breaches of constitutionality (if David Hall is correct in his challenge) or abuses of the public purse.

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