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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 16th January 2017.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 4:30 pm, 16th January 2017

I will not.

Secondly, there could be a challenge based on the right to property. The European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to property as set out in article 1 of protocol 1 to the convention. The protocol makes it clear that the right must be balanced against the public interest. It is manifestly clear that action to reduce the loss of funds whilst still providing the expected level of return to beneficiaries is a much better balance between public and private interests than allowing the excess flow of funds to continue unchecked. The issue here also concerns future income, not established property. I am advised that the courts will show less concern for the possible right to future income. In short, having taken and considered the very clear legal advice available to me, I believe that there is a very robust defence against anyone who wants to assert that the very generous original tariff and the accompanying risks of abuse and overspend should be continued.

While the original policy intentions of the scheme may have been laudable, it has been blighted by significant failings in its design, oversight and control. There have been many allegations of potential abuse, which casts a shadow over legitimate users of renewable heat installations. I recognise that some legitimate users will see a substantial reduction in their payments, but that reflects the fact that the scheme was much more generous than it was originally intended to be. I can assure the Assembly that allegations of abuse will be thoroughly and vigorously investigated. Where abuse is proven, payments will be stopped and steps will be taken to claw back payments already made. These are, however, steps that will continue to be taken forward alongside the immediate priority of bringing costs for 2017-18 under control. I commend the regulations to the House.