RHI has exposed weaknesses in the entire Stormont infrastructure, which were already known and ignored in favour of ‘Keeping the show on the road’. Despite knowing what needed to be reformed, for 20 years, the current Health Service ought to be so much better – and isn’t.
The Renewable Heat Association (RHANI) sought a legal injunction to stop the Department for the Economy publishing the names its members, about 500 in total.
Yesterday an interim injunction was overturned in respect of those companies who successfully applied to the RHI scheme. Individuals who applied would seem to be except from their names being published, for now.
There has been lots of comment on the judgement which has mostly focused on the publication of ‘names’, and how quickly those names might be published. However, in the BBC report of the judgement it was a small comment that caught eye of @thedissenter which seemed more important to the scheme of things.
The report on the case states:
The judge ruled that the application for RHI subsidy did not amount to a legally binding contract.
He said the department had the right to vary the terms.
Why is that interesting? The argument that the RHI will cost £XXX million over 20 years rested on the premise that approval of the applications meant the creation of a legally binding, invariable contract. This judge would seem to disagree.
It might expected that legal actions on RHI are far from over. However, if the point the judge in this case goes unchallenged (improbable, but not to say he will be over-ruled on this point later) that moving forward:
- the current 12 month fix by the Minister, Simon Hamilton, will hold, and that;
- going forward the scheme can be altered to a controlled scheme within what funding is available from Westminster.
While seeking to protect the anonymity of its members the RHANI may well have sped up the process of revision to the grant payments of those who had RHI scheme approvals pre-2016, at considerable relief to the Northern Ireland budget.
Seems RHANI members may soon be facing the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Having been focused on travelling and/or working in the later half of 2016 the RHI story was in the background, though hard to miss the heat and noise around the issue.
At the start of 2017 it seemed that despite the heat and noise, there wasn’t much light on the subject. Nolan was on repeat. While plenty of titbits were being bandied about as if Moses had just revealed them himself, nothing seemed to be moving the story forward. The story of RHI had become left behind by the political story unraveling before us.
Worthwhile at this point to rewind. Helpfully, early last July the Northern Ireland Audit Office produced a report on the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. You can read the report here along with the summary contained in the accompanying press release.
If you want to know about the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme then you really should read the NIAO report. It provides a timeline of events, the likely immediate impact on budget finances and a series of actions that had been agreed within the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment in particular.
And it is worth listening to the short two minute item here from UTV(ITV) on the scheme, closing with the Minister, Simon Hamilton, confirming a pathway forward in respect of addressing the failures of the scheme. The NIAO summary of what was launched into the public arena back in July 2016, is easy to recognise:
The RHI scheme encouraged the installation of costly eco-friendly heating systems by paying a tariff per kilowatt of heat burned over a 20-year period. It was administered on behalf of Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM). Read more… »