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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

No, let me make some progress.

Today is about bringing in cost controls that are outlined in the regulations that are before us. To permit the current situation to continue would be grossly irresponsible. We have a situation where an average rate of return for recipients of the non-domestic RHI scheme is 60%. It is estimated that over 80% of recipients are earning over 12% rate of return. That is more than the original state aid approval for the scheme. I do not believe that any of us can allow that to continue, especially when we know the consequences to the public purse. I accept that the process has not been perfect, but we need to act urgently.

I want to address the range of questions and points that have been raised by Members today and last week. The first point that I want to touch on is the issue of timing and why we are coming forward with the proposals when we are. There have been all sorts of suggestions as to why that is the case. It has been described as rushed, fast-tracked and a frenzy. In the Committee last week, Mr Chambers described it as going at a rate of 100 mph. I absolutely and fully accept that it is not ideal to bring forward regulations in the way that they have been. The haste in bringing them forward is not, of course, of my doing. I would have by far preferred to do so in the normal process. That is what was originally intended. I originally intended to bring these regulations to the Committee and the Assembly in the normal fashion, and I was planning to do so. Circumstances, though, have clearly changed.

Some argued that we were going too slowly; now they argue that we are going too fast. I would argue that Members who make those arguments cannot have it both ways.