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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 5:15 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 5:15 pm, 23rd January 2017

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and apologies for moving around.

A number of years ago, of course, nobody imagined that we would be leaving the European Union, which has set us very stringent targets for the use of renewable energy. Therefore, the concept of a renewable heat initiative, using woodchip instead of fossil fuels, was a good one. When the uptake was slow, many did not anticipate that there would be a spike at some stage. The spike happened only after a Minister in the Westminster Government announced that they were to withdraw funding from wind energy. Nonetheless, the spike happened, and we are now in the circumstance that we are in, and something needs to be done.

There has been a whole series of efforts to try to make it appear that this is hugely corrupt. I do not believe that that is the case. I believe that there are significant inadequacies, that people got it wrong and that the scheme as devised is clearly flawed. All of those issues are out there, but I do not believe and have not seen evidence that this involves political corruption. I do not think that that case can stand. Nonetheless, let us have the public inquiry, and let us have its findings as quickly as possible. I do not like and would resist a long public inquiry, as might be proposed. I would much prefer a very rapid inquiry: one that has all the papers, witnesses and everything else that you can have at a public inquiry, but one that also gets answers for the public quickly.

We find ourselves in this circumstance today, and we will see the colour of Members' money. Those Members who choose to go through the Lobbies and do something different are saying, "Roll on. Keep spending the money. We will make plenty of noise and plenty of protest and seek to get as much publicity as possible over this issue. Let us get as angry as possible, but we are quite happy for it to go up in smoke because then we can continue to blame the DUP for what is going on". So, let us see the colour of your money. If you are for real, you will do the right thing and vote for the proposals today. I know that the proposals will hurt people who have installed boilers. People who installed woodchip boilers are not criminals, rogues, thieves, murderers or a whole lot of other things; most are just involved in a business that needed heat and, therefore, they looked at this option and did it.

Moy Park encouraged its growers to do it. What really bugs me, particularly on social media, is that people do not seem to realise that day-old chickens need considerable amounts of heat, and for quite a long period afterwards. Woodchip boilers provided that heat from non-fossil fuels, and that was beneficial. Moy Park encouraged farmers to install them because the chickens —