Heating scandal: ‘Did ministers think Westminster would pick up tab?’

East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs. INCT 17-704-CON
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs. INCT 17-704-CON

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has asked if the reason why successive DETI Ministers avoided addressing the defective Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was because they thought that Westminster would be paying for it rather than the Northern Ireland block grant.

The East Antrim Assemblyman, a former deputy chair of the public accounts committee, said: “The public are quite rightly asking questions, including why ministers and officials failed to address the gaping flaws in the scheme.

“One possible explanation may be that they thought the Westminster Government was picking up the tab rather than the Northern Ireland block grant.”

However, Mr Beggs highlighted a letter sent to DETI in the summer of 2015 by Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, which stated: “I confirm my position that should you maintain a different policy ... than in GB, the cost impact of that decision should not be funded by GB consumers.”

Mr Beggs added: “Surely this should have been when the penny finally dropped for those running the scheme in Northern Ireland?

“This letter implies that there had been a previous discussion on the issue of who would pay for renewable energy schemes.

“There must be an explanation why such a generous scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland without the checks and balances that existed in GB; and why the many warnings to the then DETI Minister Arlene Foster and officials were not acted upon.”