A senior DUP figure has wrongly told the UK’s most influential radio news programme that the RHI scheme in the rest of the UK was “as badly devised” as in Northern Ireland.
Former Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson was interviewed by Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday about a debacle which is slowly starting to attract some interest from the London media.
Veteran Today presenter John Humphrys put it to Mr Wilson: “This is an outrageously incompetent piece of legislation - I mean, the idea that the more you burn, the more money you make, so you leave your windows open to burn extra fuel...I mean, it’s just daft, isn’t it?”
The East Antrim MP responded: “John, can I just point out to you – if you examine the scheme in England, you’ll probably find that there are some very well heeled people in the south of England who also accessed this scheme and are using the exact same boilers to heat their outdoor swimming pools.”
He went on: “The scheme was badly devised, but it’s as badly devised in England as it is in Northern Ireland.
“All of the advice that was given to Arlene Foster as minister at the time was that the level of subsidy was the correct level of subsidy.”
In fact, the RHI scheme elsewhere in the UK was significantly more robust than that adopted by Stormont.
And, as has been repeatedly highlighted over the last month, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment under Arlene Foster (though she says it was not her decision) decided to copy and paste around 98% of the GB legislation – but consciously remove the cost controls.
If those controls – tiering of payments and a cap on usage – had been in place the scheme could not have run out of control as it did.
Mr Wilson also sought to play down the significance of the overspend.
He said: “Let’s put this in context. We have an overspend of £25m per year out of a budget of 12 thousand million pounds per year. A remedy has already been devised and we will put that to the Executive next week.
“I hardly think that in that context it warrants a constitutional crisis of plunging the country into a winter election seven months after the electorate have already given their decision about how Northern Ireland should be governed.”