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Energy: Meeting with Amber Rudd

Oral Answers to Questions — Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 10th November 2015

T4. Ms Maeve McLaughlin asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment whether, given his previous comments and previous meetings with Amber Rudd from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), he would be willing to meet her again. (AQT 3104/11-16)

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I will meet her any time, any place, anywhere, but Amber Rudd was a Minister in the previous Government. The present Prime Minister was Prime Minister in the previous Government. As a result of discussions that my predecessor had with them, we went out to our industry and said that the date is 2017, with a grace period to 2018. When the Conservative Government came into power, they moved the goalposts in Northern Ireland, and everything that I have done subsequent to that and to DECC's change of position is to try to drive forward a position that can ensure that the Northern Ireland consumer — the business customer — gets best value at minimum cost.

Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his clarity and welcome the fact that he intends to meet Amber Rudd again. Do I take that as a declaration of his intent to go in and fight for those people who are clearly losing out?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

People in my constituency borrowed money against their own homes to go for renewables on the basis of what DECC had allowed Northern Ireland to do in the terms of its consultation. I am acutely aware of their needs, and, when the record of this period is written, they will see that, when Amber Rudd changed her position, I tried to put legislation specific to Northern Ireland through the House. The Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee turned down legislation that I was seeking to introduce for farmers and small-scale users. When Amber Rudd changed her position again, I tried to nuance the position, and the Committee again turned down proposals for small-scale users and farmers. I am in discussion with Amber Rudd, in writing and through my officials, to see what we can do for those people, but I can only do what is realistic and introduce legislation that the Committee allows to go to the Floor.