Energy from Waste: Mallusk

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 26th January 2015.

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Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 26th January 2015

T6. Mr McKinney asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to outline the implications for EU funding in relation to energy from waste were the Mallusk plant not to go ahead. (AQT 1986/11-15)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

Sorry, there was a little noise in the Chamber. I think that he was asking what the plans were for that money if it does not go —

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

The implications for EU funding were it not to go ahead.

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

The project that the Member raises is a large one. Obviously, it is subject to planning permission and has to go through various processes in that respect. I certainly would not want my position to influence or be seen to be influencing that one way or the other. I am not aware of, although I would not rule out, a possibility of EU funding being secured by the developers of that scheme. My only interaction with that scheme was through the Budget and a bid by the Department of the Environment, which was working with the Strategic Investment Board on the development of a bid that may use financial transactions capital, which is, of course, a source of capital funding that we receive as an Executive from Westminster, not Europe.

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister, but maybe we can hone this a little. My understanding was that money was set aside in the Executive. Were it not to go ahead, would there flexibility for the money to be spent elsewhere?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I think that we have been talking at cross purposes. Initially, that is what I thought that he was asking, but he mentioned European funding, which confused me a little. An indicative allocation of £50 million has been set aside for that project, which developed as result of work carried out by the Member's own Minister's Department of the Environment, which had been working with the Strategic Investment Board and identified it as a possible project that could avail itself of financial transactions capital. The Member will be aware that my Department has had difficulty in allocating all of our financial transactions capital in-year. Thankfully, we were able to deposit around £40 million to the University of Ulster — sorry, the Ulster University, I still cannot get my head round calling it by its new name — which has eaten up all of the financial transactions capital allocation for this year.

There is a large £50 million allocation against this project for next year. Obviously, that project is subject to planning permission. Should it not go ahead, it creates a difficulty for me in spending that money. The broader point is that the creation of the Northern Ireland investment fund, which I announced in the draft Budget and topped up with a further allocation in the final Budget, is an opportunity for us to deposit money from financial transactions capital that may not be spent in-year for spending on projects in the future year. So, whilst I would be concerned if the project were not able to absorb that amount, I accept that it may not be able to because it is subject to planning and various other processes. Whilst that would create some difficulty for us in spending the money, I will continue to encourage Ministers to put forward schemes that can use financial transactions capital so that we can use all of this new but very difficult-to-spend source of funding.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

That ends questions to the Minister of Finance. I will give the Minister of Health and Social Services a few moments to take his place.