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

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance 3:45 pm, 23rd January 2017

I will refrain in future, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The fact is that the closure of the scheme was recommended at that time. Just think of the mess that we could have avoided if that recommendation had been acted on. As people have said, up to that date, there was concern that there was an underspend on the scheme and that we had not been successful enough in promoting it. However, the danger signs were there all the same; it was beginning to gain momentum. The Minister of the day quite correctly tried to get it closed down or to get it regulated so that we would not be in this mess.

What happened at that point? Another special adviser apparently came in with "informal advice"; I think those were the words used. I think if one SpAd approaches another Department with informal advice, instruction, coercion or pressure — I do not care what you call it — they are acting on behalf of the Minister. They cannot avoid it, and the Minister cannot avoid it. So I am quite certain that the Minister of Finance at the time, who that particular SpAd worked for, was well aware of what was going on. It may just be coincidence that the same Minister and SpAd who set up the scheme in the first place and who oversaw it were the same two who tried to pressurise the Minister of the day not to close it down. So there we are. As Mrs Foster herself actually said at one point, Ministers decide, special advisers advise and civil servants advise. Ministers decide.

I want to move to the question of disclosure of the recipients' details. I understand that the Minister on Wednesday, after we have finished here, is going to disclose the details of the recipients — the full list. We have been advised through the PAC that it is not possible to do that. The application form which everybody signed to enter the scheme confirms that they do not object to details being released, but it stops short of mentioning names and addresses. It gives the type of scheme, the type of equipment, the payments received and something called "location", which apparently, in these terms, does not mean "address" but is probably part of the postcode. I think that is the information that has already been given to 'The Stephen Nolan Show' through an FOI request. I would like the Minister to address that point. Is he going to release on Wednesday the names and addresses of all the recipients, or is he going to release the details that he is allowed to under the scheme?