Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 23rd January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP 4:30 pm, 23rd January 2017

It certainly includes that period. I will not go on to speculate on why. Perhaps the head of the Civil Service will be able to reveal it to me in the coming days. Perhaps the judge, when all the papers are laid before him, will be able to give a more definitive answer.

What I do not see in the regulations that needs to be in them in this: can records be expunged? I happened to be at a carol service in my church in Newtownards on the Sunday before Christmas while the Economy Department was sending out press releases to the media on the issue. When I again asked — I will reveal this to the judge under oath — the permanent secretary why references to Arlene Foster and the Department of Finance were taken out of emails without my permission, he replied, "Because the record was expunged". How is it that a Minister can have the email record changed without his knowledge or without his consent? How can that happen? I asked the permanent secretary, and I referred to the deputy permanent secretary — this is not in the regulations — where the instruction came from to cleanse the record of any reference to OFMDFM and the Department of Finance and whether there was evidence to the effect of this changing of records. The permanent secretary replied to me:

"There is an email to that effect, yes".

There is evidence in what the permanent secretary told me of records being expunged, and there is evidence in the permanent secretary's words that there is an email to that effect. Just to be clear — this is not in the regulations, and perhaps it should be — I said:

"If there were emails there" — as there were—

"you said they're telling you to expunge the record".

The permanent secretary replied with one word: "Yes".

Is it the case that we are here today and hundreds of millions of pounds could be saved only because I spoke out, because I told the truth, because I was prepared to take the suspension and because I was prepared to have my political career effectively terminated, albeit that, with no disrespect to any political party, it will be the public who decide if my political career is to be terminated? I have heard it said, "Jonathan, you believe the public want to hear the truth; you'll find out that they don't". I believe that the public want to hear the truth.

There is nothing in the regulations — this concerns me — in relation to how special advisers can interfere in a process and how, when a Minister makes a decision —