North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the Enterprise Minister should consider introducing regulatory measures for the home heating oil industry.
Mr McKay brought a motion on the issue to the floor of the Assembly with party colleagues which was supported by the SDLP and the Green Party.
Mr McKay pointed out that the DUP and UUP had been on the record as supporting regulation and said that members of the public would be disappointed that they have now backed down from that position and failed to put consumers first.
Mr McKay said
“In North Antrim, and elsewhere in the north, families and households are starting to feel the pinch when it comes to the price of home heating oil. In rural areas like this there are fewer opportunities to avail of cheaper alternatives such as gas and our overreliance on oil is clearly correlating with fuel poverty figures.
“Whilst it is clear that the huge hike in oil prices has much to do with the international markets there is still an onus on legislators to protect home heating oil consumers, this is a view that Age NI, NEA and the Consumer Council, representing the interests of older people, fuel poverty and consumers respectively adhere to.
“There are disparities in oil prices across the north. There is also a need to bring more transparency and an industry standard forward. At present gas, which is used by 16% of households is regulated whilst Home Heating Oil, that nearly 70% of households rely on is not.
“As far as the consumer is concerned, there never appears to be a situation when the price of oil comes down, despite on several occasions the price per barrel on a global scale decreasing significantly.
“The DUP and UUP’s opposition to this is unsurprising but they have failed to put forward any proposals in regard to the problem that households are facing when it comes to home heating oil. That is quite simply disgraceful given the fact that over 40% of households are now in fuel poverty.
“£580million was spent on home heating oil here last year and not one penny of that went back into communities to deal with fuel poverty. What we want to see is regulation that benefits consumers, that is cognisant of the employment that the industry provides but provides transparency for members of the public.”