Government confirms £400 energy discount will be delivered in Northern Ireland

·5-min read
Conor Murphy speaking to the media in Belfast following the confirmation that a £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme will be rolled out in NI (David Young/PA)
Conor Murphy speaking to the media in Belfast following the confirmation that a £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme will be rolled out in NI (David Young/PA)

The Government has committed to delivering a £400 energy bill discount to people in Northern Ireland.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi said the support would be delivered “as soon as possible” but did not set out a firm timeframe.

Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy warned that no guarantee has been offered on when the payments will be made and said it is not clear if people in Northern Ireland will receive the money at the same time as those in the rest of the UK.

However, DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said it is his belief that the scheme will be delivered in November, and it is anticipated the payment will be a one-off lump sum to energy companies.

The ministers were speaking after a meeting of a taskforce set up by Mr Zahawi to look at how to operate the energy support scheme in Northern Ireland.

In July, the Westminster Government revealed details of the scheme in which households in Great Britain would get more than £60 off their energy bills each month throughout winter as part of its cost-of-living support.

The money, part of a package announced in May, will be delivered in six instalments to 29 million households.

Households will see £66 taken off their energy bills in October and November, and £67 a month between December and March, the Government said.

However, there had been uncertainty about how the scheme would be implemented in Northern Ireland, where there is currently no functioning powersharing Executive as part of the DUP’s protest against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi set up a taskforce to discuss how a £400 energy bills discounted could be rolled out in NI (Andres Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi set up a taskforce to discuss how a £400 energy bills discounted could be rolled out in NI (Andres Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Zahawi set up the taskforce, comprising UK and Stormont ministers, to discuss how the scheme would be extended to the region.

“Energy prices are rising fast and I know that this is causing great concern,” the Chancellor said after Friday’s meeting.

“That is why I brought together Northern Ireland Ministers and the Business and Energy Secretary this morning, and we reached agreement to support the UK Government delivering £400 off energy bills this winter.

“This is a vital part of our £37 billion support package and we will continue to work together to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland get the support they need as soon as possible.”

Speaking after a meeting of the joint taskforce, Mr Murphy said: “Confirmation provided by the Chancellor today that the British Government will deliver the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme is long overdue.

“Unfortunately, today’s meeting has provided no guarantee on when citizens here will receive the equivalent support.

“While the British Government has committed to delivering support as quickly as possible they have failed to confirm whether households will receive their payment at the same time as those in England, Scotland and Wales.

“It is deeply regrettable that payments to citizens in the north may be delayed due to the absence of an Executive.”

The Sinn Fein minister added: “I have made it clear that the Chancellor and the Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that any delay in issuing these payments to citizens here will be completely unacceptable.

“I have also stressed to the Chancellor that the £400 payment will not be sufficient to meet the challenges facing households this winter in the face of escalating energy costs, and that this amount must be urgently reviewed.”

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said a meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi was ‘very positive’ (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said a meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi was ‘very positive’ (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

However, the DUP’s Mr Lyons accused Sinn Fein of “playing politics” with the payment scheme.

He said: “Regardless of whether the Northern Ireland Executive was fully functioning or not, delivering the money direct from Treasury to the energy companies was always the simplest and most efficient way to get help where it is needed.

“From the taskforce discussions this morning, it is anticipated that bill-payers will receive a one-off lump sum of £400, whereas in Great Britain the £400 will be spread over a few payments.

“This could be delivered in November.

“It is disappointing that some parties here were more focused on playing politics with the payment rather than getting it delivered, and if they had had their way the payment would have been delayed until next year.”

Mr Lyons also indicated the payment would be made directly to suppliers and then taken off bills.

But Mr Murphy responded by stating that he did not hear the November date mentioned in the taskforce meeting.

He said: “The only date I heard mentioned was early in the new year, with a sincere hope to try and bring forward that as early as possible, but absolutely no guarantee of that.

“The Economy Minister also said that this was always going to be the quickest way of delivering the scheme. Well, I mean clearly that’s nonsense.

“The DUP are continuing to try to spare their blushes in terms of their prevention of an Executive sitting.

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“There’s no doubt that we have lost time since February in the absence of an Executive. The idea that we have a date in November was not mentioned in the meeting and the idea that this was always the quickest way to do it is complete nonsense.

“From my perspective, in the meeting there were absolutely no guarantees that this will be delivered this side of Christmas.”

Mr Murphy also said he pushed the Chancellor on the need for further Westminster intervention to address the cost-of-living crisis.

He said: “The current cost of living is undoubtedly having a major impact across society, for our citizens, businesses and also for public services.

“I have made it clear to the Chancellor today that additional funding is urgently required and that the new Prime Minister must put in place a package of measures which will provide additional support to households, businesses and public services.”

Mr Lyons said his party will also continue to push for additional help for working families.

He said: “We need to see an increase in the tax-free childcare scheme as well as the reversal of the national insurance increase, the removal of green taxes and a better windfall tax on the energy companies.

“Working families need help this winter and the major levers, whether that is energy security or food security, rest in Westminster.”