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Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:15 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 4:15 pm, 16th January 2017

I beg to move

That the draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 be approved.

This statutory rule is being made under powers contained in the Energy Act 2011, which prescribes that these regulations be laid in draft form for approval by affirmative resolution of the Assembly. I am introducing the draft regulations as the first stage of a comprehensive plan to address the fundamental flaws in the design of the non-domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme and to eliminate the abuse of the scheme, which has done so much financial and reputational damage.

I will start by thanking the Chairperson and members of the Business Committee for sitting at short notice at 5.30 pm on Friday to consider my request to have the draft regulations considered today. I also express my regret that the urgency of the situation did not permit me to provide the draft regulations to the Economy Committee for the normal scrutiny process. I am grateful to the Committee for accommodating a briefing session this morning.

This is perhaps an opportune moment to seek to address as best I can the points raised by Mr Nesbitt. He is asking for a delay for seven days. As I stand here, there is no certainty that the Assembly will be here in seven days. He suggested that, if I asked for it, the Secretary of State might do it. Oh, that I had such power. There therefore may not be the opportunity to bring in the much-needed cost controls that are inherent in the legislation. Even a delay runs the risk of not having in place the relevant administrative changes that are required and, indeed, the very important state-aid approval that will need to be in place for the commencement of this at the start of the next financial year.

I am not going to spend too long on the very regrettable history of the scheme, which is still being examined by the Public Accounts Committee and which should be examined fully by an independent inquiry.