Belfast Telegraph

Does DUP back Paisley RHI stance? It won't answer that, but breaks silence on tariff cuts

DUP's Arlene Foster with Ian Paisley MP.
DUP's Arlene Foster with Ian Paisley MP.
RHI caused huge fallout in 2017 when it emerged the scheme paid out more in subsidies than the cost of fuel
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

The DUP has broken its silence on the drastic cuts to the RHI scheme tariffs - which were guaranteed by party leader Arlene Foster - saying it was important "fairness and balance" was achieved for those on the botched green energy scheme.

When asked whether the party supported Ian Paisley's stance of pledging to lobby Government over the "grossly unfair" tariff cuts, a DUP spokesperson did not directly address the question.

Last week, the Department for the Economy proposed severe tariff cuts for boilers under the botched green energy scheme, which led to the collapse of Stormont in January 2017.

DUP MP Ian Paisley said: "I certainly believe that the current regime as outlined and the current proposals in Parliament are grossly unfair."

He said his party would be meeting with Government officials over the issue ahead of Secretary of State Karen Bradley fast-tracking legislation in parliament to reduce the payments.

In order to encourage more people to take up the scheme, the then Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, pledged the tariffs would be "grandfathered, providing certainty for investors by setting a guaranteed support level for projects for their lifetime in a scheme, regardless of future reviews".

When asked whether a DUP supported Mr Paisley's position, a party spokesperson said the proposed cuts "are the work of the Department for the Economy".

"We were given very late notice of the plan to legislate for these reductions," it added.

"We have sought information as to why the cut is not in line with what is happening in Great Britain, particularly given State Aid rules apply across the UK. Our party are engaged in meetings to ascertain the current factual situation.

"It is important that the facts of the situation are established and that fairness and balance is achieved for both the taxpayer and those in the RHI scheme who have genuinely observed the scheme criteria.”

The proposed new tariffs for the most common type of boiler on the scheme would drop from around £13,000 to £2,000 a year, leading to fears it could put many farmers out of business.

Users in the Republic and Britain receive around £20,000 per boiler each year, whereas the proposed plans for here will see RHI users receive just £2,000.

On Monday, the Renewable Heat Association Northern Ireland, which represents many claimants under the scheme, served an injunction on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to stop her tabling the tariff-reduction legislation.

The Ulster Farmers' Union met with DfE last week to raise concerns that proposed tariff cuts could "decimate" businesses and cause "permanent damage" to the farming sector.

RHI caused huge fallout in 2017 when it emerged the scheme paid out more in subsidies than the cost of fuel, resulting in an overspend of £460m - to be paid by the taxpayer.

The scandal led to the resignation of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and calls for First Minister Arlene Foster to resign, as she had signed off on the botched scheme as Enterprise Minister in 2012.

A public inquiry into the scheme is expected to publish its report later this year.

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