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RHI Live: Ex-DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford's brother 'was told RHI was lucrative'

Former DUP Spad Andrew Crawford

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

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Inquiry ends for today

5.35pm

That was another long day of evidence at the inquiry. Dr Crawford has highlighted close family members, who all lived within a 10 mile radius of his home farm, were beneficiaries of the RHI scheme but denied discussing it with them.

The former DUP Spad will resume giving evidence for a second day tomorrow.

 

Andrew Crawford 'clearly pointed out dangers of RHI scheme'

5.10pm

Enterprise official Chris Stewart said at a meeting on July 28 2015, Timothy Cairns seemed receptive to possible changes but "gave me the impression of needing something he could sell (to the DUP) as a 'do the minimum approach' ".

Mr Stewart said he thought Mr Cairns was reporting the DUP view that RHI was a good scheme and shouldn't be "hobbled". Mr Stewart's evidence is that he assumed the 'selling' was a reference to Dr Crawford.

Dr Crawford said in an earlier email to Mr Cairns on July 20 2015 he made clear of the problems with the scheme.

"I think I was very clear in pointing out the risks and dangers of the scheme as it was... at no stage did I indicate that the scheme should have been kept open," he said.

Andrew Crawford 'met Moy Park at brother's poultry unit'

5.10pm

Dr Crawford said he bumped into Moy Park executive David Mark at Dr Crawford's brother's poultry unit on July 29 2015.

The inquiry has heard James Crawford's unit was used by Moy Park as a 'model' unit.

Dr Crawford said he didn't talk to Mr Mark about any business.

"He was there on business, he was showing people around, international visitors, it wasn't the place to have that discussion," he said.

Later that day, at Clogher Valley Show, Dr Crawford met businessman Mark Robinson who sold bins that stored biomass pellets.

Dr Crawford said when he asked Mr Robinson about business "he talked about there are going to be some changes (to RHI) and that July his orders had taken off".

Dr Crawford said at the time he was more aware of gathering information.

The botched RHI scheme will cost taxpayers £490 million

'Counterintuitive' to delay cost controls

5pm

Dr Crawford said it was "counterintuitive" to delay cost controls to avoid a spike in RHI applications.

The inquiry has heard suggestions Dr Crawford wanted a delay.

He denied he had ever suggested that.

"I don't believe there's any rational reason I would have said that," he said.

He added: "At no stage was I pushing for the later introduction of tariff controls".

'Misunderstanding' over RHI funding

4pm

The inquiry heard in June 2015 there was a "significant misunderstanding" over funding for the RHI scheme.

On June 18 2015, a finance department working document showed that RHI was treated as being funded directly by the Treasury. 

During contact with the finance department in or around June 20, Dr Crawford said he believed he would have raised the issue of Treasury funding and no one in finance raised any concerns at the time.

The corporate statement from the Department of Finance said at "some stage" in summer 2015 Dr Crawford was advised there was "no certainty" that RHI would be fully funded by Westminster. The statement said he was also warned the scheme's approval from the finance department had lapsed.

The inquiry heard the Treasury wasn't contacted until several months later.

Advice to enterprise Spad 'not a policy steer'

3.50pm

After a short break, the inquiry heard it will sit today until 5.30pm.

Dr Crawford has insisted his advice to Mr Cairns was not an attempt to influence how RHI was handled.

"It's my very clear view that I was only effectively giving advice to Timothy," he said.

"At no time did I believe I would be the person making a policy decision."

He said if he "were to give a clear policy steer I would have gone about this completely different".

Andrew Crawford 'didn't seek latest possible date' for RHI cost controls

3.15pm

Dr Crawford said he wasn't aware in July 2015 that the spike in applications would have consequences for the Northern Ireland enterprise budget.

He thought the north would just get a bigger part of the UK pot but he warned Mr Cairns that funding was not secured indefinitely.

In the email to Mr Cairns on July 20 he said he thought it was "sensible" the enterprise department introduce cost controls to "stop potential abuse of the scheme" but warned tariffs should not be reduced "too much".

Mr Aiken asked if there was anything in the email which implied a policy that Mr Cairns was to seek the latest possible date to introduce cost controls.

Dr Crawford said it actually implied seeking "the earliest possible date".

The inquiry heard the email didn't discuss any dates for the introduction of possible controls.

A biomass boiler of the kind installed by 2100 RHI claimants

Andrew Crawford warned in July 2015 of 'massive spike in RHI applications'

3.10pm

On 20 July 2015, Dr Crawford emailed Mr Cairns to warn him "the word on the street" was that cuts to RHI scheme subsidies would be introduced in October and "you are going to get a massive spike of applications before this date".

"I was telling them there's a tsunami coming you have to move," Dr Crawford told the inquiry.

Mrs Foster has said Dr Crawford did not inform her of this. The inquiry asked Dr Crawford "how likely" it was that he didn't tell the minister.

"I certainly didn't keep it from her but I can't sit here today and say... I gave her the information," he said.

Sir Patrick pointed out Dr Crawford was then in the finance department and would have been aware of RHI as a major budget issue. "What is wrong with putting that into a brief... to your minister?" he asked.

"I should have done it," Dr Crawford said. "Did I update her verbally on it? I can't confirm that one way or another."

'No difficulty' in speaking to industry

2.50pm

Mr Aiken asked Dr Crawford if he spoke to Moy Park official David Mark about problems in the RHI scheme.

The ex-Spad said he didn't speak to Mr Mark.

At the time, Dr Crawford suggested Mr Cairns speak to Mr Mark and installer Mr Robinson. 

"I was providing information, I wasn't there to do his job for him," he said.

Mr Cairns's evidence is that it would have been "inappropriate" to meet either man.

Dr Crawford said he "didn't see any difficulty in talking to wider industry...I believe that the role of an adviser was to talk to a wider circle of people".

A row of biomass boilers in Co Fermanagh attracting subsidies under the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

Andrew Crawford heard in July 2015 people were 'heating empty sheds'

2.35pm

Asked by panel member Dame Una O'Brien how he reacted to news a scheme he had only left a few months before was in difficulty, Dr Crawford said he was "suprised, I was shocked".

"I was suprised by the uptake in the scheme (since I left the department)," he said.

On July 17 2015, while on leave, the inquiry heard Dr Crawford bumped into a biomass installer at his brother James's poultry unit beside the Spad's small-holding.

Dr Crawford said the installer, David Robinson of R&S Biomass, "told me there was a shortage of pipe work" due to the number of boilers being installed. The installer also told him of the number of hours typically being used by recipients.

The ex-Spad said he "believed" it was during that conversation he first heard some RHI recipients may have been using their boilers to heat empty sheds because the scheme paid them to do that.

"I believe he was telling me more about the talk that was in the industry," Dr Crawford said. 

He added: "It was one of those conversations where I was quickly able to glean quite a lot of information". 

Mr Aiken suggested Dr Crawford may have been told the scheme was so good that people were heating empty sheds.

The poultry industry was a key beneficiary of the RHI scheme

RHI 'didn't need to be elevated to First Minister' in summer 2015

2.25pm

Mr Cairns said following Dr Crawford's resignation in January 2017 he got "confirmation" from Dr Crawford he had been speaking to Timothy Johnston about RHI over the summer of 2015.

Dr Crawford said he had general discussions with Mr Johnston but not specifically about RHI.

Dr MacLean said it "seems very strange" RHI was never discussed with Mr Johnston over that summer.

Dr Crawford said: "I didn't have a great deal of communication with Timothy Cairns on the matter. In terms of budget irregularity it is something I raised with DFP (finance department) ...I didn't see any need for it to be elevated to the First Minister's attention at that stage."

He said he understood over that summer Mr Cairns and the enterprise department were taking the lead on the RHI issue.

When asked why Mr Cairns would say otherwise, Dr Crawford said "He did have discussions with myself. I am accepting there were conversations and email exchanges between myself and Timothy Cairns... it was in relation to the paper in question".

"The information that I was giving to Timothy Cairns was in relation to the content of the submission," he said.

Former DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns at the RHI inquiry

RHI submission was sent to Timothy Johnston

2.10pm

After a lunch break, the inquiry is hearing again about the July 8 2015 submission to introduce RHI cost controls.

Dr Crawford said he forwarded the submission to Timothy Johnston but did not expect to get any advice from him.

"I spoke to him about it on July 14 and he was getting it just two nights later," he said.

Mr Johnston's evidence is that he didn't read the submission or discuss it with Dr Crawford.

Dr Crawford said he had previously mentioned the RHI issue to Mr Johnston but "I don't recall any detailed discussions".

Mr Aiken suggested the email was sent so that Mr Johnston "was aware there was a potential problem".

Dr Crawford replied: "To be fair to him, when I was speaking to him two nights before... I wasn't aware of the details".

Andrew Crawford 'emailed key RHI submission to his cousin Richard'

1pm

Dr Crawford sent a submission on planned RHI cost controls to his cousin Richard Crawford and Timothy Johnston on the evening of July 16 2015.

Dr Crawford has already admitted to the inquiry that it was "inappropriate" to have sent his cousin the document.

Mr Aiken suggested the reason Dr Crawford forwarded the submission "must have been for your cousin to know that the tariffs were coming down".

Dr Crawford that wasn't the case and said his cousin's boilers had already been installed. 

"I believe it was to provide reassurance that it wouldn't impact on his existing business... The knowledge was out there (in industry) that the changes were going to take place," he said.

During the summer of 2015 Richard Crawford installed three boilers. Applications to accredit his boilers were sent on September 9 2015 - almost two months after the July submission was forwarded to him.

Mr Aiken suggested at the time Dr Crawford sent his cousin the submission, the boilers were still "in the process" of being installed.

Panel member Dr Keith MacLean also said the submission would have been a "useful warning" to Richard Crawford.

Dr Crawford replied: "The whole industry were aware before this...This wasn't how he knew changes were taking place".

Mr Aiken suggested Dr Crawford didn't email his brother the submission because he simply told him.

"I had no reason to send it to my brother...He was in a different position from my cousin," Dr Crawford said.

Andrew Crawford 'didn't know specifics of RHI changes' until mid July 2015

12.30pm

Dr Crawford has insisted that until a submission to change RHI tariffs was sent to him on July 16 2015 he wasn't aware what proposed changes to the RHI scheme would be, although he did know there would be changes.

"I was not aware of any detail of what was in the submission," he said.

The inquiry heard Dr Crawford was told that the RHI scheme was over budget.

He said in May 2015 he had noticed a large queue at an agricultural show for renewable energy stalls. But he said he wasn't fully aware at that stage of an increase in RHI applications.

"After I received the submission I became aware of it," he said.

The submission said cost controls were needed to manage RHI spending.

Andrew Crawford 'not told specifically to work with Timothy Cairns on RHI'

Midday

There is some dispute over what help Dr Crawford was asked to give Mr Cairns.

Mr Cairns has said he was "directed" by Mr Johnston in June 2015 to liaise with Dr Crawford over the RHI scheme.

Timothy Johnston's evidence is that in late June 2015 "there is no suggestion about working with Timothy Cairns about working with...tariff controls".

Dr Crawford said he was told by someone, he can't whether it was Mrs Foster or Mr Johnston, to work with Mr Cairns but not specifically on RHI.

"I don't think when I was told to give Timothy a hand it was (on) a particular issue.. it was only to provide assistance until he got up and running (in his new role)," he said.

Andrew Crawford was in enterprise department for development of RHI scheme

11.45am

In May 2015 Dr Crawford left the enterprise department and became a special adviser in the finance department.

"I was in Deti for seven years. In some ways I was glad to move on from it, in other ways I was sad to go," he said.

He said he was concerned he had more experience in the department than most senior civil servants.

Dr Crawford said he was conscious that issues in the enterprise department moved on rapidly.

"I would say in terms of helping out it was not uncommon for us to help out other departments," he said.

He said while he was in the finance department he got help from fellow Spad Richard Bullick.

Sir Patrick said it would be a "matter of common sense" for Mr Cairns to go to Dr Crawford with RHI issues, given he had been in the enterprise department since the start of the scheme.

Dr Crawford said he told Mr Cairns "I'm here to help" but said he couldn't remember what they discussed about energy issues at that time.

He said at the time he moved departments, he was not aware of possible issues with the RHI scheme.

Andrew Crawford's brother and cousins 'Moy Park suppliers'

11.10am

Mr Aiken has asked if "the panel should be suspicious about what you knew (in) late 2014 about the non-domestic scheme and its attractiveness".

Dr Crawford said he "wasn't aware" of the attractiveness of the tariff rates.

He was asked if his brother or cousins ever raised with him the attractiveness of the RHI scheme given he was a Spad in the department responsible for developing the project.

Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin said: "You have a home farm within 10 miles of them...They never said to you is it worthwhile putting in these boilers?"

Dr Crawford said he "did not have a discussion" about the boilers.

"There was no experience of what the actual outworking of the boilers would be," he said.

Panel member Dame Una O'Brien asked if Dr Crawford ever told his brother "you should look into the RHI scheme".

He said he hadn't.

Dr Crawford added his brother and two cousins are Moy Park suppliers.

The RHI scheme put huge pressure on government budgets

RHI installer told Andrew Crawford's brother James 'he could make money' from scheme

11am

James Crawford has said he received a quotation for his boilers in June 2014. An email from the proposed installer included two graphs showing how much money can be made from the scheme and the possible fuel savings.

The document said the scheme will "have paid for itself" by the end of the third year.

An example calculation showed that an RHI boiler could make more than £12,000 a year and an annual saving of more than £16,000.

Over the course of 20 years, a calculation suggested there would be an RHI income of around £250,000 and savings of more than £300,000.

Mr Aiken said to Dr Crawford: "The starkness of it I presume you would accept". 

"On June 6 2014, this is, according to your brother a communication that is sent to him making various claims about how lucrative the RHI scheme is," the counsel said.

Asked if he ever spoke to his brother about his poultry business he said: "I do not recall any discussions about this".

He added: "I wasn't involved in any part of that".

"I have no recollection of seeing this document ever before," he said. 

His brother installed his two boilers in and around July 2015.

Andrew Crawford's relatives had 11 RHI boilers

10.50am

Dr Crawford said he bought a small-holding which was completed in 2014.

His brother James lives on the family farm outside Omagh, Co Tyrone. He had two RHI boilers. His cousin Richard lives around five miles from Dr Crawford's small-holding. He had six RHI boilers.

His cousin John Crawford, who had three boilers, lives on a poultry farm around nine miles from the Crawford family home.

Dr Crawford said his cousin Richard was the first to install biomass boilers. "I'm not sure when I first would have seen that unit...but I suspect it was after the conversion was carried out".

Senior Stormont press officer was 'briefing against' Andrew Crawford

Dr Crawford has claimed the executive's press secretary David Gordon was involved "briefing against me to the media" in January 2017.

He said his claim is based on email exchanges given to the inquiry.

"If you look at the exchanges that took place between him and [DUP adviser] Richard Bullick in December [2016] you see the reference to 'getting the real story out'," he said.

Andrew Crawford resigned after he was named as being behind cost controls

10.30am

After senior civil servant Dr Andrew McCormick named him as being behind a delay, he said he met Arlene Foster at her home, along with Timothy Johnston, and resigned in January 2017.

He said at that time Mrs Foster suggested it was possible that fellow Spad John Robinson would also resign.

"What he was being blamed for was not indicating that his father-in-law had a boiler installed," he said.

DUP 'allowed interpretation' Andrew Crawford was involved in delaying cost controls

10.10am

Dr Crawford said in his written evidence that at the height of the RHI crisis a speech by Arlene Foster "allowed the interpretation" that he had been involved in delaying cost controls.

"In my mind I was blamed unfairly," he said. He added: "That's how politics works in times of a crisis."

Dr Crawford said he was "sore" over how the DUP dealt with the crisis in December 2016/ January 2017.

Dr Crawford denies he sought to delay RHI cost controls

9.45am

Ex-DUP special adviser Timothy Cairns has insisted senior Spad Andrew Crawford was clear "from the outset" that cost controls should be delayed to the latest date enterprise officials would agree to.

Dr Crawford told the inquiry: "In the summer of 2015 there was talk of bringing in the tariffs... at no stage did I seek to delay the introduction of tariff controls".

Inquiry counsel Joseph Aiken told Dr Crawford Mr Cairns's evidence is "at variance with yours".

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What happened yesterday?

Former DUP special adviser (Spad) Timothy Cairns, who worked with enterprise minister Jonathan Bell, claimed party leader Arlene Foster was aware of her advisers' involvement in the RHI scheme.

He said in June 2015 he was "directed" by senior adviser Timothy Johnston, now the DUP's chief executive, to liaise with Spad Andrew Crawford on the scheme.

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.

This map details all claimants who have received more than £200,00 from the Renewable Heat Incentive:

Map created using azimap web GIS 

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 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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