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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:30 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 6:30 pm, 23rd January 2017

You are very welcome.

Are the regulations a fig leaf, or are they a solution, even an interim solution? I hope that they are the latter, but I fear that they are the former. They show many signs of being a fig leaf for the DUP to get it through the election arising from, in the terminology of one of its members, the "omnishambles" of RHI and to create the aura and impression of something being done about it: "It is sorted. Nothing to see here. Move on". The suspicion that it may indeed be a fig leaf comes from two sources: the timing and the dubious nature legally of what is being tried.

The problem has been known about for months upon months upon months in the Department and maybe even longer than that.

It is only now, however, in the teeth of an election, that a proposal — any proposal — has come forward to attempt to ameliorate it. Indeed, if we had not had the BBC 'Spotlight' programme, would we be having this debate? I suspect not. If we had not had the vigorous, persistent, necessary, worthwhile investigative journalism of Sam McBride, Stephen Nolan, Conor Spackman, Allison Morris and others, would this matter have continued to be swept under the carpet because it was too embarrassing to deal with? I suspect so.

The fact that the regulations come at the time that they come at suggests to me that they are indeed more of a fig leaf to get us beyond 2 March, but fig leaf or not, the regulations contain a mammoth embarrassment for the DUP. Belated beyond description, they seek to put into the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 the very thing that Arlene Foster, when she was Enterprise Minister, took out of the GB template. The regulations put in what should have been in there in the first place. They put in what was in —