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Summary

  1. Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry examining botched energy scheme
  2. DUP special adviser Andrew Crawford answers questions from the inquiry
  3. Inquiry set up after public concern over scheme's huge projected overspend
  4. Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Patrick Coghlin chairing inquiry at Stormont
  5. Public evidence sessions expected to last until well into 2018

Live Reporting

By Iain McDowell and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today...

    We've reached the end of today's proceedings, but that's by no means the end of questions for Dr Crawford - he'll be back for more tomorrow morning.

    Join us again tomorrow for more coverage from sunny Stormont at 09:45 sharp - see you then!

    Stormont
  2. What happened at the RHI Inquiry today?

    Empty Senate chamber

    Former Enterprise minister Arlene Foster did not "jettison" plans for cost controls in the RHI scheme, her former special adviser told the inquiry.

    Andrew Crawford was back giving evidence to the public inquiry into the flawed green energy scheme.

    Dr Crawford said he believed the decision to park proposed cost controls and move ahead with the domestic scheme in late 2013 had been taken by officials.

    The inquiry was also told that neither Mrs Foster nor Mr Crawford had been told that a 10% target of renewable heat by 2020 was not achievable.

  3. 'I can't remember the finer details'

    In November 2014, Dr Crawford obtained Stuart Wightman's contact details to pass on to fellow DUP special adviser Stephen Brimstone (seen below).

    Mr Aiken wants to know why.

    "I can't remember the finer details," says the witness.

    Stephen Brimstone

    He thinks it may have been that Mr Brimstone wanted to talk about the RHI scheme with reference to the Green New Deal, which was one of his responsibilities in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.

    Mr Aiken says he thinks its more likely "he wanted to speak to Mr Wightman about his boiler".

  4. 'I was using an ‘Ulster-ism''

    Sir Patrick

    Questioning has halted for an important clarification from Sir Patrick.

    He wants to make something clear about when he was questioning Dr Crawford a few minutes ago on the Daily Mirror article.

    "Before we continue, can I make it absolutely clear that when questioning Dr Crawford recently I was using an ‘Ulster-ism’," he says.

    "What meant when I said 'The odd newspaper', I meant 'The occasional newspaper' That was what I was referring to. I wasn’t intending in any way to be descriptive."

    This gets a few laughs.

    Mr Aiken says: "Indeed, and I’m sure no-one would have suggested that for a moment."

  5. 'There was plenty of people who picked up how lucrative the scheme was'

    Dr Crawford says he wishes he had picked up on the warning signs surrounding the RHI scheme. If he had, he says, he would have been able to implement cost control measures.

    "This was very much a new industry in that it was a new scheme and how it was being used to support businesses," says Dr Crawford.

    Boiler

    Dr MacLean observes that "there’s a reflective degree of naivete that you’re perfectly happy to provide the information but you’re not expecting anything in return".

    "There was plenty of people who picked up how lucrative it was. In fact, it only took a matter of weeks until people twigged how good it was," the panel member says..

    Dr MacLean asks why these people were happy asking for information but never told Dr Crawford anything about how the scheme was being used.

    The witness says he had no dealings with any of the installers or others within the industry, but that he expected that they would not tell him if they were using the scheme to fund their expansion..

  6. 'Witness didn't pick up on the newspaper article'

    Dr Crawford

    Mr Aiken asks Dr Crawford if there should have been a submission coming to the minister, Mrs Foster, in the light of this article in a national newspaper advising on the implications for the Norhtern Ireland RHI scheme "and what steps, if any, need to be taken?"

    "You would like to think if the key officials in energy division picked up on it that it would at the very least have made them question what they were doing," the witness replies.

    He says he didn't pick up on it at the time.

  7. 'Hands up if you're a Daily Mirror journalist'

    Mr Aiken now picks up the Daily Mirror - not a literal copy of the newspaper itself but an article in the online version.

    "I don't know if you're a reader of the Daily Mirror, Dr Crawford," he says.

    "I certainly don't reach for it on a daily basis," he replies.

    Sir Patrick asks if there are any "representatives" of the paper in the chamber.

    "Nobody's volunteering anyway," says panel member Dr Keith MacLean

    Burning pellets

    Mr Aiken then quotes extensively from a colourful article entitled "Rich enjoy free fuel and tapayers' cash while millions must choose between heating and eating".

    There follows an article that quotes people who live in mansions and enjoy the benefits of RHI.

    The story appears to be based on examples from the GB scheme and is from November 2014

  8. 'Only giving information to one set of players'

    Dr Keith MacLean

    Dr MacLean is asking Dr Crawford a series of questions on his relationship with Moy Park. He is quite critical of Dr Crawford relaying information to Moy Park that he says "was not in the public domain".

    Dr Crawford is adamant that all he was doing was providing clarity to the company and that the information he passed on was already in the public domain.

    Dr MacLean disagrees. "Likely changes next summer is not something we’ve seen in the public domain. It is something you had elicited which would not have been expected to go into the public domain," he says.

    "Would you agree you were providing information selectively, not particularly accurately and to one part of the industry and only to one part of the information?"

    Dr Crawford repeats that the information was in the public domain.

    But Dr MacLean says: "You are making a decision to pass information on in a potentially discriminatory manner because you're only giving it to one set of players."

  9. 'Official unaware emails were forwarded outside DETI'

    Dr Crawford sent a number of documents to Mr Gibson, including a briefing note on RHI from Stuart Wightman, the head of DETI's energy efficiency branch.

    The witness says documents like this, called 'one-page fact sheets', would be distributed beyond the department.

    "I don't believe there's anything there that would not have already been there in the consultation exercise for example," he says.

    Mr Aiken asks a question

    Mr Aiken says that his understanding from Mr Wightman is that there wasn't anything particularly sensitive in the briefing "but he certainly wasn't aware that it was going to be sent on outside of DETI", and he certainly didn't know his email was going to be forwarded outside DETI.

    Did Dr Crawford tell him he was going to do this?

    "I suspect no," says the witness.

  10. 'Moy Park not entitled to insider information'

    Mr Aiken is pushing Dr Crawford on whether it was right to pass information on to Mr Gibson.

    "Do you think you had become casual sending out material?" asks Mr Aiken.

    Dr Crawford says he was only replying to a query that could help the company. He also puts into context that Mr Gibson is working for a major foreign direct investment company, one that worked with the executive across many different departments.

    Sir Patrick cuts across to argue that regardless of Moy Park's importance to the Northern Ireland economy, it is not entitled to "insider information".

    Dr Crawford

    "It doesn't entitle them to a prediction from you as an insider that changes to the scheme will not have a negative impact," says Sir Patrick.

  11. 'I know Brian well'

    Chicken

    Mr Aiken turns to a November 2014 email exchange between Dr Crawford and Brian Gibson, a manager at Moy Park.

    He describes him as "one of the lead people in terms of deciding who were Moy Park growers".

    Dr Crawford had an additional connection with Mr Gibson:

    "Brian lives close to me at home. I would know Brian well and I would know all of Brian's family well."

  12. 'Did the lines ever get crossed?'

    Dr Crawford is being asked about the balancing act working for a minister who is also a politician, as Mr Aiken puts it.

    In October 2014, a representation is made to Mrs Foster (below) from a Ms Kirkpatrick, asking for help setting up a poultry house. There was a large waiting list at the time to be approved.

    Mrs Foster then asked Dr Crawford to use his contacts in Moy Park to help with this query.

    Arlene Foster

    Mr Aiken asks Dr Crawford whether he would ever be asked to take on constituency work outside of DETI matters. "Did the lines ever get crossed?" he asks.

    "Yes.If the issues was related to her constituency but had a link into DETI, the minister would have asked me to look at it," says Dr Crawford.

  13. 'Mr Irwin's RHI connections'

    Boiler

    Mr Aiken asks if Dr Crawford knew Mr Irwin had connections to the RHI scheme.

    "No, I didn't," he says, adding that he only found out through the media when the scheme closed, and after he had left DETI.

    Mr Aiken says it was Mr Irwin's son who had the connections, and not the MLA himself.

    "No doubt if I've got it wrong someone will correct me," he adds.

  14. 'Why would you get an MLA to ask a question to your department?'

    Dr Crawford wrote to the DUP MLA Wiliam Irwin (below) asking him to put a question to the minister asking: "Does DETI have any plans to reduce the level of renewable heat incentive for new biomass boilers?"

    Mr Aiken asks: "Why would you give to an MLA who’s not working in your department to put a question to your department?"

    Wiliam Irwin

    Dr Crawford says it is a way to put something on the record the position from the department.

    Mr Aiken queries this further, asking whether it was an opportunity to advertise that the non-domestic scheme would have no cost controls.

    "I was wanting to make clear that there was RHI boilers were not going to change for the non-domestic scheme," says Dr Crawford.

  15. What comes first: The RHI scheme or the expansion?

    Mr Aiken wants to know how much Dr Crawford knew about Moy Park's planned expansion.

    "Was this something you knew about at this point, which is why applicants like your brother were being taken on stream?" asks Mr Aiken.

    Dr Crawford says that he could not give a precise date, but that there was an agri-food loan scheme being offered by the department that Moy Park had sought around this period.

    Dr Andrew Crawford

    Mr Aiken dwells more on the expansion of poultry farms within the RHI scheme.

    Were these poultry farms expanding because of the RHI scheme or where they expanding and subsequently availing of the RHI scheme.

    "I don’t think it ever came into my mind that people would be looking to produce poultry to benefit from RHI," says Dr Crawford, adding that he believed expansions were only supported by RHI after the fact.

  16. 'Brother was putting up chicken houses'

    Mr Aiken picks up after lunch with some correspondence between Dr Cawford and an Invest NI official in Dubai in August 2014.

    This made reference to Dr Crawford's brother, James, and mentioned that he had left his engineering and was "hoping to put up a couple of chicken houses".

    Chickens

    "When my brother went into the poultry industry it wasn't because of RHI," Dr Crawford says.

    Poultry firm Moy Park was expanding, he explains, adding that his brother had to go back and make arrangements to apply for RHI

  17. Time for lunch

    Lunch

    That's the end of questions for Dr Crawford until after lunch. Join us back here at 14:00.

  18. 'Minister didn't take decision not to bring in cost controls'

    Sir Patrick puts it to Dr Crawford that he knew that cost controls were not being introduced to either the domestic or non-domestic schemes "despite the public having been consulted on both schemes having cost controls".

    He's referring to a consultation document of June 2013.

    It was subsequently to "decouple" the two schemes, and fast-track the introduction of the domestic scheme.

    Sir Patrick Coghlin

    The witness says he'll return to his original point:

    "This is was not an issue being flagged-up in submissions where there was a minister taking decisions, so the minister did not take, nor did I, ask for or make any conscious decision not to bring controls in place."

  19. 'There were other important issues'

    Dame Una O'Brien questions whether Dr Crawford thought it was odd that a large submission on the RHI scheme landed on his desk quite unexpectedly.

    Dr Crawford admits that this was "odd" when he compares it to previous consultation responses.

    "We normally would have known," he says.

    People at a meeting

    Dame Una says that the job of the special advisor and the private secretary is to "crack the whip" and push for submissions.

    Dr Crawford says that the perception was that the RHI scheme was running well, that there were other higher priorities on minister Foster's desk and that often Mr Mills only "told you what you needed to know".

    "At this particular time there was other issues more important in the minister’s mind and in my mind and that would go through the department," he says.

  20. 'You didn't receive this document'

    Mr Aiken turns to the relationship between Dr Crawford and Mr Mark Anderson.

    The witness says Mr Anderson is a neighbour and friend.

    "I've known Mark all my days," he says, adding that his friend was involved with renewable energy matters of Ulster University.

    He confirms that he would have "bounced" energy issues past Mr Anderson "simply because of his experience".

    Dr Crawford

    Dr Crawford says he didn't tell anyone he was doing this but it wouldn't have been uncommon to talk to many people outside the department.

    Mr Aiken describes a PDF document sent to Mr Anderson by Dr Crawford in June 2014.

    This was promotional material presented to the minster by a company involved in renewable energy.

    In the email accompanying the PDF Dr Crawford included the words "you didn't receive this".

    Mr Crawford say he did not want Mr Anderson to forward the material to anyone else.

    Mr Aiken asks if this meant the witness knew he shouldn't send this document to Mr Anderson.

    Dr Crawford says he didn't think it was commercially sensitive document but he didn't have the permission of the company.