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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:15 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 7:15 pm, 23rd January 2017

It is a good question and it is one that I am happy to address now. I have not yet received approval for the business case that underpins the regulations before us, and that is deeply troubling. I submitted the business case to the Department of Finance some 11 days ago, which, I appreciate, is shorter than is usual. It was, though, given priority by the Finance Minister — comments that he has made in public and in the House. My understanding is that it was making good progress in the Department. Indeed, I understand that departmental officials recommended it to the Finance Minister for approval. I and my Department have cooperated fully with the Department of Finance. We have answered all questions and queries, and we have provided all requested information. Yet, no approval has been forthcoming.

The business case process is there to assess value for money and regularity. I understand that there have been no issues raised in respect of either. I know that the Finance Minister is just coming into the House, and I would be happy to give way to him if he were to offer approval for the scheme. The question that the Member and, I am sure, the House will want to ask is this: why is there no approval? That is a question that only the Finance Minister can answer. Unreasonably withholding approval could be unlawful, and it is certainly contrary to the commitment that was made to make the assessment politics free. I have been told that it will likely be approved but not today. I think that that says it all, and the House can reach its own conclusions.