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HM Treasury 'very concerned' over RHI scandal, Economy Committee hears

Stormont's Economy Committee has heard that the London government, which is providing the bulk of the entire RHI cost is "very concerned" with the scandal.

On Monday Economy Minister Simon Hamilton outlined his plans to reduce the costs in the coming year.

Those measures are being discussed at Thursday's meeting of the Economy Committee with department permanent secretary Andrew McCormick.

Dr McCormick's appearance comes after he faced five hours of questioning over how the scheme was run during his time in the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment.

While he was not permanent secretary when the scheme was established he was there when it was eventually capped and then closed.

He told the committee HM Treasury, which is providing £600million toward the scheme, is "very concerned" with the scandal.

"They do read Northern Ireland newspapers," said Dr McCormick, "they are aware."

The committee was also told that there was a misconception that the problem with RHI was just those that abused the system was wrong.

"Abusers are a subset of the overcompensated," MLAs were told by an official.

The MLAs were also told legal advice on the cost saving plan was "clear and robust" and the department was confident it would work.

The Treasury was to cover the cost of the RHI scheme, however, given the lack of the tariff caps in the Northern Ireland scheme, Stormont is to pick up the bill for the £490m projected overspend.

The Renewable Heating Incentive has been described as the “biggest financial scandal in the history of devolved government”.

Unlike a similar scheme in England, there was no cap on the payments meaning many businesses profited from the scheme.

Former First Minister Arlene Foster, who was enterprise minister when the scheme was set up, has pledged to work to reduce the projected £490m overspend to zero.

More: Arlene Foster's ex-adviser Crawford behind decision to keep RHI scheme open, committee told

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