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RHI Live: Ex-DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford accused of making 'sales pitch for Moy Park'

 Ex-DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford is giving evidence to the RHI Inquiry today

We're live with the RHI Inquiry. Scroll down to see what was said earlier today.

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Inquiry ends for the day

3.50pm

That was another uncomfortable day for Dr Crawford. His links to Moy Park, including his family links, came under further scrutiny.

The inquiry won't sit again until Thursday of next week when it will hear from a series of witnesses, including officials from Invest NI.

'No hierarchy of Spads'

Following a question from Sir Patrick, Dr Crawford said there was no hierarchy of Spads in the DUP.

"I have no experience where (now DUP chief executive and former Spad) Timothy (Johnston) would have come and dictated that," he said.

He added he had never "received a dictat from Timothy Johnston or Richard Bullick" about an issue in his department.

He said Mr Johnston's advice may have been given more weight but "the only reason it would have taken more significance... because of the knowledge it would have been discussed with the First Minister".

Andrew Crawford's cousin Richard converted to biomass

3.30pm

Dr Keith MacLean pointed out Dr Crawford's cousin Richard had several fairly new gas boilers which he then converted to biomass.

"Is that really not anything that was ever discussed?" he said.

Dr Crawford said he wasn't "au fait" with his cousin's business. "I was not aware of it," he said.

Dr MacLean said another cousin, John Crawford's boilers were accredited in November 16 and 17 2016, right at the end of the RHI scheme.

Dr Crawford said he understood there had been a delay in the planning application for John Crawford's boilers due to an archeological issue. He said he had never visited John Crawford's chicken houses.

Andrew Crawford 'wasn't aware' RHI was lucrative

3.30pm

Dame Una O'Brien said Dr Crawford's emails had highlighted abuse of the scheme, its lucrative payments and a possible influx of applications.

She asked given he had been a Spad in the enterprise department for seven years, including when the scheme waa being developed, which of those three he was aware of while he was in the department.

"Unfortunately I wasn't aware of (all) three of them," he said.

He said it was only because he had spoken to his brother's biomass that he had received "additional information".

"It is unfortunate that I didn't make more contact with industry at an earlier stage," he said.

Andrew Crawford 'blamed for RHI closure delay'

3.30pm

Senior civil servant Dr Andrew McCormick's evidence is that Timothy Cairns "clearly and explictly" told him on December 16 2016 that Dr Crawford was behind the delay in introducing RHI cost controls. The inquiry heard that the DUP "reluctantly" agreed that Dr McCormick could mention Dr Crawford's name to the assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Dr Crawford said while there were "many things I have done... I shouldn't have done...I had no part to play in that delay".

He said at no stage did Dr McCormick tell him he was going to name him to the PAC. "I don't believe that he did anything at the time to get his facts and that's something he could have done," he said.

Moy Park 'due to meet Andrew Crawford' in late January 2016

3.10pm

The inquiry heard the enterprise department started to receive calls in early January 2016 about the rumoured closure of the RHI scheme.

Dr Crawford again insisted he never told Moy Park he told them the RHI scheme was closing.

"I believe that someone else made them aware of the information," he said.

He later added: "I am aware that it was likely to close but there was another process going on in Deti".

The inquiry heard of an email from David Mark on January 19 2016 which said the company had hundreds of growers who were ready to convert to biomass boilers and wanted a meeting to discuss the possible closure of RHI.

"Great I'll organise a time with Andrew Crawford," the email read.

Another email from Moy Park stated it was due to have a "confidential meeting" with Dr Crawford in and around January 22 2016.

"I can't recall whether it took place," the ex-Spad said.

Mr Aiken said "there was a line" Spads had to tread when dealing with business and asked if Dr Crawford accepted that "a number of times you crossed that line".

He admitted if he did send on the email from Howard Hastings then he should not have done that.

Former DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford is giving evidence to the RHI Inquiry

Moy Park said Andrew Crawford told it RHI scheme was closing

2.50pm

Moy Park gave the inquiry a document on its involvement in the RHI scheme. The document said on January 15 2016, finance minister Mervyn Storey and Dr Crawford were among a delegation who met senior executives at the company's headquarters. 

The company said at the end of the meeting Dr Crawford told executives the RHI scheme was closing. This was said three weeks before the closure was publicly announced on February 5 2016.

Dr Crawford said: "I can't recall but I may have made some comment in relation to financial issues".

He added: "I don't believe at that stage I had any information the scheme was closing".

The inquiry heard the meeting was not put in the ministerial diary.

Andrew Crawford 'sent RHI warning to Moy Park'

2.35pm

The inquiry heard Dr Crawford received an email from hotelier Howard Hastings on August 3 2015, which included a warning from the businessman's adviser about possible abuse in the RHI scheme.

Moy Park executive David Mark later received the same email from someone he described as "a contact in government".

He then passed the reacted email around other Moy Park executives.

Dr Crawford said it was likely he was the contact who sent the email to Mr Mark.

"I'm accepting it's likely it came from myself," he said.

The inquiry heard the original email cannot be found and Moy Park could not discover the forwarded email.

Counsel Joseph Aiken said the inquiry had already heard Dr Crawford never sent on the Mr Hastings email to senior civil servants.

Dr Crawford said if he had forwarded on the email to Mr Mark, he would have expected that if any Moy Park growers were suspected of abuse of the RHI scheme to "bring it into line".

Andrew Crawford removed poultry industry reference in key document

2.10pm

After a lunch break, the inquiry is discussing the removal of a mention of the poultry industry in a key RHI department document in early February 2016.

Dr Crawford has already admitted he asked for the removal at a time of a spike in applications. 

"It was my belief... that it (the spike) wasn't solely the poultry industry," he said.

Sir Patrick said: "I want you to think carefully about the inference.. the panel should draw... given your family circumstances and your frequent talk to Mr Mark in Moy Park".

Dr Crawford said Moy Park was the north's biggest employer and he had a "wider concern" for the poultry sector.

"I was just concerned at this stage that singling out the poultry industry was unfair when it was clear there were other areas who were investing in biomass," he said.

Sir Patrick asked: "The major responsibility for the spike was the poultry industry and Moy Park in particular... That was true. Why remove a true fact?"

Panel member Dame Una O'Brien added: "This is a very, very, very important document".

She added: "This strikes me as withholding information from the First and deputy First Ministers that they were entitled to see".

Dr Crawford later said: "Looking back on it now I regret doing it".

The Spad said his minister at the time, Mervyn Storey, was aware he had family members in the scheme.

RHI paid recipients to burn fuel

Andrew Crawford 'volunteered information his brother was RHI beneficiary'

12.40pm

Dr Crawford said he voluntarily told finance officials at a ministerial meeting in October/November 2015 that his brother James was a member of the RHI scheme.

"For the record, when it became a live issue in DFP (finance department) I did make them aware of my family connections," he said.

Dr Crawford said it was "in a verbal discussion with David Sterling and (finance director) Mike Brennan".

"There was a discussion around the budgetary issues to do with the RHI scheme... I was aware there could be a perceived conflict of interest... I certainly would have told them that my brother was in the scheme... I can't recall if I mentioned my cousins," he said.

He added: "I believe I asked David Sterling if I needed to put (it) in writing. He said I didn't".

Dr Crawford added: "I wanted to provide clarity at that stage".

'I had no row' with senior civil servant David Sterling

12.30pm

Dr Crawford was asked about an alleged row between him and senior civil servant David Sterling in September 2015.

Ex-enterprise minister Jonathan Bell's evidence is in January 2016 Timothy Cairns told him of disputes between Dr Crawford and Mr Sterling. Mr Sterling had allegedly accused Dr Crawford of keeping the RHI scheme open to benefit his family and also that the botched scheme had ruined Mr Sterling's hope of becoming head of the north's civil service.

Dr Crawford said: "I've worked with David Sterling both in Deti (enterprise department) and DFP (finance department) and at no stage did we have loud altercations or rows".

He said during a conversation with Mr Sterling in December/ January 2016 he was told Dr McCormick had alleged Dr Crawford was involved in RHI at a time when cost controls in the scheme were delayed. He said it was the first time he had heard the allegation and was "taken aback" by it.

Mr Cairns's evidence is that Dr Crawford had an altercation with finance official Mike Brennan over the allegation the Spad kept the RHI scheme open to benefit his family.

Mr Brennan's evidence is that this never happened.

A biomass boiler of the kind installed by 2100 RHI claimants

Andrew Crawford 'should have formally passed on RHI concerns'

12.15pm

Dr Crawford has conceded he should have formally raised his concerns about the RHI scheme.

"Yes it probably would have been better if it was passed on (formally) and I apologise for that," he said.

He said he did pass on his concerns to Timothy Cairns via email.

"I believe that should have been taken forward seriously," he said.

Panel member Dame Una O'Brien asked him "what other avenues were open to you at the time to have raised this?"

"Knowing what I know now it would have been best if this had been raised with the permanent secretary as the accounting officer," he said.

Dr Crawford said he assumed Mr Cairns would have immediately passed on his concerns.

Hotelier warned of abuse of scheme

A biomass boiler installer warned an adviser to hotelier Howard Hastings that RHI cost controls were being introduced.

The installer, Brian Hood, advised that "it may be better to get [installations] under way" before the controls came in to effect. Mr Hood also told the adviser of allegations the scheme was being abused.

Mr Hastings forwarded the correspondence to Dr Crawford, saying the it "surely" wasn't happening on the Spad's watch.

Dr Crawford didn't pass on the email to the enterprise department.

Andrew Crawford said no one gave him specifics of possible RHI fraud

11.50am

Dr Crawford was asked about how he passed on his concerns about the scheme.

Ex-DUP Spad Timothy Cairns said Dr Crawford told him of issues about the scheme and he raised them with enterprise official Chris Stewart and senior enterprise civil servant Dr Andrew McCormick.

Dr Crawford said he believed he passed on concerns about the scheme in and around early August in 2015.

However, he said no one could give him specifics.

"No one could say 'here is a building, go and check it out... they've put in six boilers and the doors are open all the time'," he said.

The RHI scheme put huge pressure on government budgets

Delay in introducing cost controls

11.10am

The inquiry is probing why a planned October 1 2015 date to introduce cost controls was pushed back.

After Dr Crawford resigned in January 2017 there were allegations he caused the delay.

During an issues meeting on August 24 2015 the date to introduce controls was moved from October 2015 to early November 2015. During the delay, the scheme received an influx of applications which has caused serious issues with the north's budget.

Dr Crawford said DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns told him verbally the date had been changed.

"I cannot put a time or date on when that took place," he said.

After a short break, he was asked how he reacted to the news.

"I think I was surprised.. that they were allowing more time to bring in the tariffs," he said.

He added: "I don't recall having detailed discussions about it".

The poultry industry was a key beneficiary of the RHI scheme

Andrew Crawford's email 'a sales pitch for Moy Park'

10.25am

In an email to Mr Cairns on July 31 2015, Dr Crawford warned changes to RHI would need to be introduced by October 1 2015.

However, he also added "the current problem is that it pays producers to heat houses when their houses are empty".

Dr Crawford said the line was based on a conversation he had had earlier that month with biomass installer David Robinson of R&S Biomass.

"I hadn't been speaking to anyone else in the industry to give me a more informed position," he said.

Dr Crawford then suggested a change to the cost controls plan.

The change would increase the threshold of hours that a claimant could run their biomass boiler for before RHI scheme payments would be reduced.

The enterprise department wanted to have the same 1,314-hour threshold as a similar RHI scheme in Britain, but Dr Crawford wanted a 3,000-hour threshold.

Panel member Dr Keith MacLean said Dr Crawford's proposal to change the hours covered by the RHI tariff would "maintain exactly the high income" producers had enjoyed.

Sir Patrick Loughlin claimed: "What this is is a sales pitch for Moy Park".

He added: "That's what Moy Park need, that's what they told you... You're the man with the relations, all of whom worked for Moy Park".

"Moy Park need 3,000 hours," Sir Patrick added.

Dr Crawford replied: "I believe if I had spoken to Moy Park, I would have come back with a lower figure".

He suggested his plan aimed to curb the possibility of a spike in applications and potential abuse of the scheme.

"There were people currently running boilers 24 hours a day... this would have stopped people heating empty sheds," he said.

"I didn't want to sell it to the poultry industry, I wanted to make sure I could get it through the (enterprise) committee," he added.

Former DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford is giving evidence to the RHI Inquiry

Draft of 2015 submission warned north might have to make up RHI shortfall

A draft of the July 8 2015 submission, which was not presented to minister Jonathan Bell, outlined RHI was costing £23 million - almost twice the scheme's allocation.

A line, which was not included in the final draft compiled by civil servants, said officials were working with the Treasury to secure more funding, otherwise the shortfall "may have to be met by Deti (the enterprise department)".

Dr Crawford said he would have taken a "very different approach" if he had known money might have been taken from the enterprise department's budget.

"I would have started by looking (for) greater clarity and said 'Timothy (Cairns) there are issues here... let's have a tabled discussion with officials'," he said.

He added: "It's the starkness of the financial implications of what that is saying".

Inquiry begins

10.10am

Inquiry counsel Joseph Aiken has apologised for the short delay. He said the inquiry will still finish before 4pm today.

Today's evidence has begun with Dr Crawford being asked about a July 8 2015 submission to introduce cost controls.

Delay in proceedings

10am

The inquiry should have started a few minutes ago but it appears to be running behind schedule

What happened yesterday?

The inquiry heard a brother of former DUP special adviser (Spad) Andrew Crawford, who worked with leader Arlene Foster, was told as early as June 2014 that the RHI scheme could make him £250,000 over 20 years.

Dr Crawford's brother and two cousins had 11 RHI boilers between them.

The ex-Spad has already admitted emailing a government document about proposed cost controls in July 2015 to his cousin Richard Crawford.

What was RHI?

The botched scheme, which was designed to encourage people to use more eco-friendly technology, effectively paid users for burning fuel.

RHI is expected to cost taxpayers around £490 million.

For anyone unfamiliar with how the scandal unfolded, here's a quick reminder.

Dr Andrew Crawford gives evidence to RHI Inquiry

Good morning.

We're live with the Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry from 9.45am.

Former DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford is returning for a second day to give evidence over his involvement in the botched scheme.

Dr Crawford resigned as a DUP special adviser in January last year after senior civil servant Andrew McCormick told Stormont's Public Accounts Committee that he had sought to delay the introduction of cost controls.

Dr Crawford, an ex-special adviser to DUP leader Arlene Foster, has denied any involvement in delaying the controls.

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