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Live Reporting

By Iain McDowell and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for now...

    This afternoon's session was much slower, more technical and less dramatic than this morning.

    But Dr Crawford has many more questions to answer tomorrow - he's booked in for the whole day and we'll have live coverage from 09:45, so join us then.

    Stormont's Parliament Buildings

    Mrs Foster will be back in the hotseat on Wednesday and Thursday.

    For now, it's good evening from us!

  2. What happened today at the RHI Inquiry?

    BBC News Northern Ireland

    There were pointed exchanges between Arlene Foster's former ministerial adviser and the chair of the inquiry.

    Dr Andrew Crawford described a claim that civil servants had not minuted ministerial meetings as an "innuendo" that was a "great disservice" to the many civil servants who did make notes.

    Wide shot of inquiry

    But Sir Patrick Coghlin interjected immediately to say it was "an innuendo" but "evidence of fact given to this inquiry" by two senior civil servants.

    "It's not an innuendo, so there's no need to use words like innuendo - that is a fact."

  3. 'I don't believe Foster was told about GB scheme changes'

    In June 2012, lawyers for Ofgem - the organisation tasked by DETI with administrating the RHI scheme - assessed the regulations.

    They advised that "legal risks" would arise if DETI did not make crucial changes to its scheme that were being made to the similar RHI initiative in Great Britain to add cost controls - but DETI decided against that.

    Wood pellets

    The minutes from the meeting at which the issue was discussed show that DETI was "clear that they have a commitment with their minister" to open the scheme by the end of September that year and "this could not be put back" to allow for the scheme to be amended.

    Dr Crawford tells the inquiry that he didn't know about CEPA's warning and has "no recollection... whatsoever" of being told about it by DETI's energy boss and he doesn't believe Mrs Foster knew either.

    He says "nothing came up in a submission or verbally in relation to cost controls".

  4. 'Officials didn't send scheme papers to Foster for final sign-off'

    An important final step in the approval process for the RHI scheme was not carried out, it emerges.

    Mrs Foster was to receive a final submission in March 2012 drawing together hundreds of pages of information - including the business case for the scheme - that she would then sign-off on giving the project the green light.

    But the Department for the Economy - formerly DETI - has been unable to locate any submission seeking the minister's approval for the business case.

    A man carying folders

    Importantly, as part of that sign-off the minister would've had to explicitly state why she was choosing the model for the scheme that was hundreds of millions of pounds more expensive than a rejected option.

    Departmental guidance show that it was the responsibility of DETI officials to draw up the submission for the minister but it appears that that didn't happen and therefore nor did the sign-off in accordance with proper procedure.

    Dr Crawford says he wasn't aware that that final step needed to be carried out.

  5. 'Why did you not advise Foster not to sign blank cheque?'

    Inquiry panellist Dr Keith MacLean says he's concerned that Mrs Foster signed off a key document in the life the RHI scheme without knowing what the cost of the project would be.

    He asks Dr Crawford why he he didn't advise the minister "not to sign a blank cheque", saying that he finds it "inconceivable" that the minister would be asked to sign something "saying the costs are justified without having those costs".

    "I'm really struggling to understand how you can be comfortable... - even if it was a one-off - not to have had that number on the face of the document."

    £20 notes

    Dr Crawford says the document said that the preferred option for the scheme offered the "best value" and he expected that to be accurate.

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin points out again that Dr Crawford didn't read the expert reports to find out for himself and appears to have put a lot of reliance on the "bald statement" that the ongoing subsidy scheme option was the "best value".

    "I still remain unconvinced as to why the reports weren't read at some stage," adds the chair.

  6. 'Subsidy spend rose by from £334m to £445m'

    Rattling further though the timeline, matters move to a second CEPA report - an addendum - to its work the previous summer - was given to DETI in February 2012.

    In it, the tariffs on offer in the scheme rose from 4.5p per kWh to 5.9p, and that took the overall subsidy spend over the 20-year lifetime of the scheme from £334m to £445m.

    Dr Crawford was never given a copy of that report.

    A biomass boiler

    At a meeting of DETI's internal scrutiny panel on the next month, it was recommended that the business case be sent to the Department of Finance and Personnel and in it the minister "should explicitly address the reasons why" the ongoing subsidy scheme was favoured over the up-front grants option that was offering better value for money.

    Dr Crawford didn't see a copy of the scrutiny committee minutes either.

  7. 'Public concerned that subsides were too low'

    Jospeh Aiken

    Mr Aiken picks up for the afternoon session and moves to the responses to the public consultation to the proposals for the RHI scheme.

    A submission from November 2011 summarises some of the areas of concern and presents a briefing document for forwarding to the Northern Ireland Assembly's Enterprise Committee.

    Some respondents to the consultation were unhappy with the levels of subsidy on offer through the scheme - as a result, DETI officials proposed to return to the expert energy consultants at CEPA for further work on the calculations.

  8. Time for lunch...

    That was an intriguing session at times with some sharp exchanges between Dr Crawford and the chair Sir Patrick Coghlin.

    Everyone makes their way down to the canteen and that's where we're heading too.

    View more on twitter

    The inquiry will be back for more at 14:00 - join us again then.

    In the meantime,have a listen back to this morning's The Stephen Nolan Show, on which the News Letter's political editor Sam McBride took a look back at last week's evidence from Arlene Foster.

  9. 'Did you let the minister down?'

    In her evidence session last Friday, Mrs Foster said she expected Dr Crawford to at least have read the executive summary of reports such as the CEPA paper on the RHI scheme.

    "Did you let her down in not doing what she thought you were doing?" asks Mr Aiken.

    The RHI Inquiry

    Dr Crawford repeats that he's very sorry that he didn't read the report in detail.

    But he adds: "I don't think there was an expectation there that I should be analysing technical reports and bringing things to her attention that are at odds of the submission that she is signing."

  10. 'Why would you disagree DETI was broken department?'

    If officials had been deliberately misleading their minister it would suggest that DETI was a "broken department", says inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin.

    Dr Crawford disagrees, saying that it was just the energy team was "broken".

    Sir Patrick Coghlin

    But Sir Patrick returns to him: "If that was the way in which officials had come to regard their minister and their duties towards her why would you disagree with the description that the department was broken?"

    The witness says it's "wrong to damn the whole department and what was going on in it".

  11. 'Civil servants deliberately mislead minister on scheme details'

    Dr Crawford accuses DETI officials of "deliberately misleading the minister" by giving her incorrect information about the RHI scheme.

    Challenged by inquiry chair to explain that, Dr Crawford suggests that it could've been because they'd done a "significant amount of work" and the ongoing subsidy model for the scheme was one that "they didn't want to turn away from".

    dr Andrew Crawford

    He suggests that if the minister had known the facts she may have selected another option and that could've left civil servants working on the scheme with "additional pressures".

    "I have no other explanation as to why there was not greater clarity in the various documents that came up to the minister."

  12. 'Minister wouldn't trust officials if we'd spotted mistake'

    Supplying the DETI minister with incorrect information about the RHI scheme was a "very grave, very severe" action on the part of civil servants who were working on it, says Dr Crawford.

    If the minister had picked up on the contradictory information between the CEPA report and the submission sent to her she "would not have been happy" and she would've gone to the department's permanent secretary if she had found that out.

    Arlene Foster

    "I can't say the ramifications would've been but certainly the minister would not have trust in one of her key officials if we had picked this up.

    "That's not a territory you want to get in to."

  13. 'My mistake not to go through report in detail'

    In CEPA's final report, submitted to DETI at the end of June 2011, the expert consultants said that the differences in cost between the two main options for the RHI scheme was "pretty stark".

    By that stage, the better-value option - an up-front grants model - had already been rejected in favour of an ongoing subsidy scheme that was projected at that time to cost more than £200m more.

    A man holding a folder of papers

    Dr Crawford refers to his evidence last week, when he said it was his "greatest regret" that he didn't read the report, adding that if he had done he "probably would have" seen that its conclusions differed from the information contained in a submission that summarised it.

    "I regret I didn't go through it in detail, I regret I didn't pick those things up - I should have, it was a mistake."

    But he adds that he shouldn't have had to go through the CEPA report to notice that it differed from the submission.

  14. 'Briefing prepared before key report was finalised'

    DETI officials delivered a further submission about the RHI scheme about a week after the June 2011 meeting - it included draft letters to go to the chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Enterprise Committee and to other Stormont ministers.

    There was also a six-page overview of the RHI scheme, a kind of briefing document.

    Mr Aiken asks a question

    The overview includes a passage saying that after various options had been considered it "was concluded that the best approach" for Northern Ireland was to introduce a "specific" initiative that would be "tailored to the needs" of the region's heat industry.

    Mr Aiken notes that that document was prepared before the final version of the CEPA report was received on 28 June.

    Mr Crawford says it's clear there was a drive to move the policy forward.

  15. 'Wrong to say minutes not taken due to parties' sensitivity'

    David Sterling, the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, told the inquiry last month that meetings involving ministers were sometimes not minuted in order to frustrate freedom of information requests.

    Asked about that evidence, Dr Crawford says the system for note-taking never changed during his 10 years as a ministerial adviser.

    A boardroom

    He says Mr Sterling is "wrong" to link the lapsing of note-taking to what the senior civil servant said was the sensitivity of the DUP and Sinn Féin to criticism.

    Dr Crawford claims it "surprises me" that "meetings were taking place and notes were not them coming out of those meetings and formally filed".

    He says that in all his time as an adviser he never had to request or look at meeting minutes.

  16. 'I never saw any minutes of any meeting'

    Mr Aiken turns to DETI guidance, which states that the minister's office should receive notes or minutes of all meetings that she has with her officials.

    But no minutes about the June 2011 meeting were supplied to the civil servants.

    Joseph Aiken

    Mr Aiken asks if it's fair to suggest that Mrs Foster's private secretary might have raised with that Dr Crawford.

    The witness says it would be wrong for him to say that and adds: "I never seen any minutes at any stage from any meeting in any department."

  17. 'Maybe civil servants were noting their shopping lists'

    It's "impossible to understand" why a note was not made of the meeting between DETI officials and Mrs Foster and her adviser at which the model for the RHI scheme was chosen, says Sir Patrick.

    Again emphasising that the RHI scheme was a new, complex policy and given that Dr Crawford claims he lacked knowledge of renewable energy matters, Sir Patrick asks him: "Why did you not ask for a note of that meeting afterwards?"

    Dr Crawford insists that he's "clear" that "at every meeting I sat through as an adviser to a minister there was somebody was taking notes."

    Sir Patrick reminds him that the inquiry has heard from at least three senior civil servants that the practice of note-taking had lapsed and adds: "It would seem that one of the few people who didn't know about the practice was you."

    A shopping list

    Dr Crawford says he didn't know about it and "nor was it the request of any minister that I worked for".

    He insists again that notes were taken at every meeting involving a minister that he was at and adds: "I don't know what [officials] were putting in their notebooks - maybe they were doing their Tesco shopping for that afternoon."

    What's can only be described as a sharp exchange continues when Dr Crawford says that "this innuendo that no notes were take of meetings" is a "a great disservice" for civil servants who did minute them.

    Sir Patrick responds firmly: "This is not an innuendo... that is a fact."

  18. 'It's a question of you learning something'

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin says he finds it "very difficult to understand" why Dr Crawford did not ask to see the CEPA report on the detail of the RHI scheme "if that is true".

    Given his confessed lack of knowledge of the renewable energy policy, Dr Crawford, as a special ministerial adviser, should've used "common sense" to "familiarised yourself with the report", says the retired judge.

    Sir Patrick Coghlin

    The witness outlines the vast breadth of the portfolio he dealt with at Stormont's enterprise department and says doesn't believe "any adviser at any department could be expected to be over the detail" of all submissions their minister received.

    But Sir Patrick emphasises the novelty of the RHI scheme and tells Dr Crawford that it's a "question of you learning something".

  19. 'I should've dug deeper for renewable energy detail'

    Inquiry panellist Dame Una O'Brien - a retired senior civil servant with vast experience leading Whitehall's Department of Health - says she is "not getting any flavour" that Dr Crawford dug into the detail of the RHI scheme and challenged the information his minister was being given.

    He explains that he had a "lack of knowledge" about renewable energy matters, the renewables industry in Norther Ireland was small at the time and he was "very much starting at the foundations".

    Burning wood pellets

    He accepts that he wishes he had done more background reading and research and "I should've dug deeper on it".

    But he says he "probably gave too much comfort" in the information from the expert consultants and CEPA.

  20. 'We viewed the submission as recommending RHI'

    Mrs Foster and Dr Crawford both signed the submission at the end of the June 2011 meeting.

    In his written evidence the adviser states "neither I nor the minister felt it necessary to indicate" the selected option on the document "demonstrates that we both clearly viewed the submission as recommending" an ongoing subsidy scheme.

    Dr Andrew Crawford

    Mr Aiken asks the witness why he thinks the submission didn't expressly say "please confirm" in relation to the subsidy option.

    Dr Crawford says there are a number of examples where information was not shared with the minister in submissions.

    He says he's not sure why this was, "but that's an issue I suppose that you'll have to raise with the relevant issues in energy branch".