Chancellor to look into claims of political interference in energy support scheme payment hold-up

DUP MP Sammy Wilson challenged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to give assurances the long-awaited energy support payment is not being held up for political purposes.

The chancellor said he was unaware of any interference but would make inquiries. He said the government was determined to get the payment to everyone by Christmas "as quickly as possible".

The East Antrim MP said it had been reported 'erroneously' that a £400 energy support payment was being held up because of the non operation of the Assembly due to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "Ministers have worked with the economy minister in Northern Ireland. They have made commitments that payments will be made before Christmas, but it seems that some senior civil servants are seeking to use non payment as a lever to get the Assembly back into operation again."

He asked the chancellor to confirm the money was available and ready to be delivered.

Mr Wilson also called on the government to "keep its commitment to ensure that payments are made before Christmas".

"And would he investigate whether civil servants are actually interfering in the political process in Northern Ireland?"

The chancellor gave an assurance the money would be delivered as soon as possible.

"I'm absolutely not aware of any delay in the way that he suggests. But I will happily make inquiries to ensure that's not the case," he added.

People in Northern Ireland still have not received their energy support payments, nor has the government specified when or how it will be paid.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss said it would be in November and when asked at the start of the month, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Support said there would be an update "in the coming weeks".

Last week the Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said there would be an update this week.

Payments have already started rolling out in the rest of the UK.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Support has said energy policy is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive but it stepped in to provide support.

A separate energy price guarantee is already in place which reduced some gas and electric bills by up to a half giving most householders an annual average bill of around £2,500 based on typical use.

It was to be in place for two years, however, one of Jeremy Hunt's first acts as chancellor saw him cut that to just six months.

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