Names of cash-for-ash recipients to be published - Hamilton

NI Minister says has written to claimants to say details to be made public on Wednesday

Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton  said he had written to cash-for-ash claimants to advise them that their details would be made public on Wednesday. File photograph: PA Wire

Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton said he had written to cash-for-ash claimants to advise them that their details would be made public on Wednesday. File photograph: PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy Simon Hamilton has insisted it is in the public interest to publish the details of recipients of the botched renewable heating scheme, known as cash-for-ash.

Mr Hamilton said he had written to claimants to advise them that their details would be made public on Wednesday.

He was speaking as members of the Stormont Assembly voted in favour of his plan to mitigate the projected £490 million cost of the controversial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

The so-called cash-for-ash scandal is one of the main reasons why Stormont collapsed. Mr Hamilton’s amended legislation would reduce tariffs paid to about 1,800 people who got into the scheme before November 2015.

During a debate about the amended regulations, Mr Hamilton told MLAs: “The House can support these regulations or they can permit up to £30 million to be lost to the Northern Ireland budget next year.”

Mr Hamilton said he had taken “extensive legal advice” on his cost-cutting plan.

He also said that publishing the names of RHI claimants will reveal that members and supporters of many parties in the assembly have links to the initiative.

“It will show that it isn’t just, as some would seek to portray it, DUP members or supporters that are benefiting from the scheme,” the minister added.

Former DUP minister Jonathan Bell accused officials within the Economy Department of withholding information from him about the scheme.

Gone unanswered

Mr Bell, who succeeded Arlene Foster as minister at the Stormont department that set up RHI, told the Assembly that several of his requests for documents relating to the scheme have gone unanswered.

He claimed one of the documents was an email suggesting “DUP party officers interfered” in the scheme.

Using Assembly privilege, he claimed he had been told by other party members that a brother of one of the special advisers - Timothy Johnston - was installing the boilers.

The DUP immediately rubbished the claims. In a statement, a party spokesman said: “For the avoidance of doubt, Timothy Johnston’s brother does not, nor never has installed boilers, does not work in this sector and has not been involved in any RHI issues whatsoever. We challenge Mr Bell to produce a shred of evidence outside the chamber.”

Last week, another special adviser - former DUP director of communications John Robinson - stood aside after it emerged his father-in-law runs two green energy boilers.

Leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party, Jim Allister, claimed that another ex-DUP special adviser, Stephen Brimstone, “is heating his own house on the non-domestic (RHI) boiler scheme”.

Using Assembly privilege, Mr Allister said Mr Brimstone had a new biomass boiler in his house - but took it out and installed a new non-domestic one to “rip off” RHI .

The DUP indicated that Mr Brimstone did not want to comment on Mr Allister’s claims.

The draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017 was backed unopposed on an oral vote.

Press Association