RHI Scheme Recipients

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 24th January 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance 3:15 pm, 24th January 2017

T4. Mr Lyttle asked the Minister for the Economy, given that, in relation to the publication of details of the RHI recipients, he has said that he is subject to limitations and has challenges to overcome, to state whether it is his ultimate ambition to publish the names and addresses of all participants and the details of when they applied, and, if so, when he expects to do so. (AQT 699/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I am not sure if the Member has appreciated or picked up the point I have been making. I appreciate that he, too, may not have seen the full judgement and will want to take a look at it. That is my publicly stated position, and it is a position that I stated in writing to recipients of the scheme. As I believed that there was a clear public interest in having maximum transparency, it was my intention to publish business details and geographical information as well as other information. I still hope to be able to do that, but obviously I will have to reflect on the judgement that has been made.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I thank the Minister for his answer. There has been some reference to the application form for the RHI scheme making limitations on the information that can be made available. Can he elaborate on his assessment of the limitations of the application form?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

As you would expect, we have been seeking to publish details of the recipients of the non-domestic RHI scheme, consistent with a range of legal obligations. At all stages, I have sought to abide by the legal advice that I have received. Whilst I have heard many say that the privacy policy allowed for the publication of business details and some limited information, significantly some of the legal advice that I received said that anything — even a business name — that could relate back to who the individuals associated were — obviously, nobody gave permission for their names to be published — could contravene the Data Protection Act. That is why the process, which was done in fairly short order, had to be undertaken to put all of the objections received against a public interest test.

I emphasise again to the Member and the House that I still hope to be in a position to publish details at some date in the future. I will look at suggestions that other Members have made about releasing somewhat limited data. Anything done will always be done on the basis of trying to have maximum transparency and instil public confidence.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker

I remind the Minister about the two-minute rule.