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Renewable Heat Incentive: Executive Finances

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 17th October 2016.

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Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP 3:15 pm, 17th October 2016

T5. Mrs Overend asked the Minister of Finance to outline the effect that the scandalous £1·2 billion cost of the renewable heat incentive scheme mess will have on Executive finances, given that, in his evidence to the Finance Committee on 5 October, he said of the former Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell, "I am so busy in the Department of Finance because no one did more damage to our finances than Jonathan Bell through the renewable heat incentive, and I am cleaning up his mess". (AQT 350/16-21)

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her question. Never has a Committee session been listened to so avidly on the day, but I am glad that, afterwards, it is being recalled as well.

The Member can be absolutely certain that issues over the renewable heat incentive will be tackled expeditiously by the Executive. It falls to the Minister for the Economy in the first instance. Even with the hyperbole and exaggeration from the Opposition, I would be amazed if the cost of the overrun of the renewable heat incentive were £1·2 billion. It is my intention to work with the Economy Minister to make sure we sort out the issue as soon as possible.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Minister for his assurances that he will sort out the mess, but how much does he plan to set aside every year to clear up the DUP Minister's mess?

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

We have set aside £20 million and placed it at the centre as a contingency fund for the renewable heat incentive. I suspect there will perhaps be a call for another £6 million. I am heartened by the fact that, as you know, the PAC, which is chaired by your colleague Robin Swann, met last week and is investigating the matter as well. I am also heartened by the soundings coming from the Department for the Economy. Not only is PricewaterhouseCoopers investigating the matter, but I think that everyone understands that, whether it is £10 million, £100 million or whatever, it is vital that we get to grips with it.

We all understand that money is tight. I am sure that there are many groups in the Member's constituency and across the jurisdiction putting in bids for money that need it, and I think that the Member expects that I would try and staunch any loss from the renewable heat incentive as soon as possible. In working with the Economy Minister, that is my intention.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton Speaker

I ask the Chamber to take its ease for a few minutes while we change the top Table.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Kennedy] in the Chair)