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Summary

  1. Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry examining botched energy scheme
  2. Dr Andrew Crawford, Arlene Foster's former DUP adviser, gives evidence
  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 hearings entering critical phase with high-profile witnesses giving evidence

Live Reporting

By Iain McDowell and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today...

    It's been a long, drawn-out afternoon, with the inquiry delving into the fine detail of emails and meetings from three years ago - it turned into a bit of slow aul' slog, to be honest.

    Stormont

    Anyway, Dr Andrew Crawford returns to Stormont's Senate chamber tomorrow to answer more questions - join us from 09:45 for full coverage.

    Have a great evening...

  2. What happened today at the RHI Inquiry?

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI politics reporter

    A former DUP adviser who resigned over the RHI scheme told the inquiry that he believes his party worked to "pin the blame" on him for the debacle.

    Dr Andrew Crawford

    Dr Andrew Crawford was an adviser to Arlene Foster in Stormont's enterprise department when the scheme was set up but he quite in January 2017 after it was alleged that he had exerted influence to delay cost controls, which he denies.

    He told the inquiry he was unhappy about how the DUP handled the events.

  3. 'Not true that DUP wanted dangerous RHI kept open'

    When he appeared at the inquiry in June, Mr Stewart (below) said that he thought the proposal to delay the changes to the RHI scheme was based on a DUP view and didn't come from enterprise minister Jonathan Bell, or his adviser.

    He said he thought Mr Cairns saw the need for cost controls but needed something to sell to the DUP and that resulted in a negotiation with civil servants for the "minimum possible action".

    Chris Stewart

    Mr Stewart said that he assumed that Mr Cairns had been speaking to Dr Crawford about the changes to the scheme "purely on the basis that Andrew would've been... very familiar with RHI, very knowledgeable about the agricultural industry".

    Asked about that view, Dr Crawford says that an email he sent to Mr Cairns proves that he pointed out "the risks and dangers" with the scheme and "in no way did I indicate... that [it] should be kept open".

    He adds that he doesn't believe it was true that the DUP wasn't happy with the cost controls plan or that it wanted the initiative to be kept open.

  4. 'Suggestion to delay cost controls didn't make sense'

    There was a suggestion from a DUP adviser Mr Cairns that delaying the introduction of cost controls in the RHI scheme could've prevented a spike applications, according to the evidence given to the inquiry by DETI's deputy permanent secretary.

    Chris Stewart said that he dismissed the proposal that Mr Cairns put to him in the summer of 2015 by saying that demand was high and was going to remain that way.

    A biomass boiler

    Asked whether he was involved in coming up with that suggestion, Dr Crawford denies it.

    He says he doesn't see "any rational reason why I would've said that... that just does not make sense".

  5. 'I only gave guidance on RHI to Bell's adviser'

    Dr Crawford says it's his "very clear view" that he was "only effectively giving guidance" to Tim Cairns - his successor as the DETI adviser - about the RHI scheme in the summer of 2015.

    "At no time did I have any belief or thought that I was the person who was going to be making a policy decision instead of Jonathan Bell as the minister," he adds.

    Dr Andrew Crawford

    In his evidence to the inquiry, Mr Cairns makes several references to the attempt to delay the introduction of cost controls in the scheme as DUP "policy".

    But Dr Crawford says it "wasn't joint policy".

  6. 'I'll fully understand if you can take no more!'

    We're in for an even longer afternoon that expected - the inquiry is going to run until 17:30...

    The RHI Inquiry

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin says he'll "fully understand" if anyone in the Senate chamber "can take no more"!

    The witness Dr Andrew Crawford asks jokingly: "Does that include myself?"

  7. 'Strange that you didn't tell Foster of RHI tsunami'

    Dr Crawford says he tried to warn in the summer of 2015 that a big spike of applications to the RHI scheme was on the horizon and that DETI would have to act quickly.

    "I was telling them: 'There's a tsunami coming here - you need to move.'"

    Pound coins

    Civil servants were aware that the number of applications was on the rise but Dr Crawford knew of even more in the pipeline due to his contacts with the energy and agriculture industries.

    He says he can't remember whether he raised it with the finance minister Arlene Foster, who he was advising at the time, but Mr Aiken is able to help, telling him: "She says you didn't."

    Inquiry panellist Dr Keith MacLean says it was "very strange" that the message wasn't given to Mrs Foster given that it had implications for public finances, which was her responsibility.

  8. 'Advisers have to be careful when speaking to industry'

    The role of a ministerial adviser is "gathering information", says Dr Crawford, adding that he doesn't see any difficulty in talking to people within industry to do that.

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin challenges that view, asking about what happens when someone an adviser is gathering information from asks for something that would be of "commercial assistance" in return.

    Sir Patrick Coghlin

    The witness responds that "it's not straightforward and you have to be careful what you do".

    "That does not mean that you don't speak to anybody bar civil servants."

    Mr Aiken sums it up nicely: "It's one thing to be gathering information - it's a different thing if you're the purveyor of information in your role."

  9. 'I told fellow adviser to speak to Moy Park'

    Dr Crawford emailed the DETI ministerial adviser Tim Cairns with his response to the 8 July submission about the RHI scheme's cost controls, suggesting that he should speak to David Mark of the poultry production giant Moy Park.

    He tells the inquiry that with Mr Cairns being new to the DETI job he would've been unaware of Moy Park's production model.

    Hens in a shed

    Poultry farmers make up a significant share of the claimants on the RHI scheme and virtually all of them supply Moy Park.

    Dr Crawford also suggested that he could put his DUP adviser colleague in contact with a biomass boiler installer.

    Mr Cairns has told the inquiry that he thought meeting Mr Mark - who gave evidence to the inquiry in June - would've been "inappropriate".

  10. 'Boiler installer told me empty sheds were being heated'

    Dr Crawford says he probably heard the suggestion that some RHI scheme claimants were heating empty sheds during a conversation he had with a biomass boiler installer on his brother's farm in July 2015.

    The installer was David Robinson of R&S Biomass Equipment Ltd.

    Dr Crawford says he was "quickly able to glean quite a bit of information" during the conversation and he was "probing" Mr Robinson for details that would help him to provide comment on the ministerial submission about the cost controls for the scheme.

    Wood pellets

    But when he's asked how the empty sheds issue arose, he "just can't answer that".

    When it's suggested to him by Mr Aiken that "one obvious answer" is that it could've been in the context that the scheme was so lucrative, Dr Crawford says "that's the way it may have gone".

    Dr Crawford subsequently raised the empty sheds issue with DETI's most senior civil servant and he explains that he made the point that the scheme "needed to be policed to ensure that there was not fraudulent activity taking place."

  11. 'I discussed politics of RHI changes with Robinson's adviser'

    Senior DUP adviser Timothy Johnston claims in his evidence that he didn't read the ministerial submission about the RHI scheme's forthcoming cost controls after it was sent to him by Dr Crawford in July 2015.

    Dr Crawford says he can't remember having any detailed discussion with Mr Johnston about it.

    Timothy Johnston and Peter Robinson

    He explains that one reason he sent it to Mr Johnston (above left) - then an adviser to the first minister Peter Robinson - was to alert him to the fact that "there was an issue" with the scheme that could become a political problem.

    "I was basically saying to Timothy Johnston: 'Keep this on your radar'," he adds.

    "I believe there would've been a discussion... around the politics of it at a high level rather than technical detail of what was being proposed."

  12. Inquiry resumes after lunch break

    The RHI Inquiry

    Picking up where he left off before lunch, inquiry counsel Joseph Aiken opens the afternoon session with Dr Andrew Crawford with more details from the summer of 2015.

  13. Time for lunch...

    Inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin calls time on the day's opening session.

    There'll be more from Dr Crawford at 14:00 - join us then.

  14. 'No motivation to send RHI document to brother'

    Dr Crawford didn't send the confidential submission outlining the impending cost controls being added to the RHI scheme to his brother, who's also an RHI scheme claimant.

    Dr Andrew Crawford

    "Why would you send it on to your cousin and not tell your brother?" asks inquiry barrister Mr Aiken, who suggests it could've been because Dr Crawford had already informed his sibling about the changes verbally.

    Dr Crawford insists he had "no reason" and "no motivation" to tell his brother.

  15. 'I didn't send RHI paper to cousin to give early notice of cost curbs'

    The 8 July ministerial submission stated that cost controls needed to be urgently implemented in the RHI scheme.

    After receiving it from Mr Cairns, Dr Crawford sent it to his cousin Richard Crawford - he accepts that was "something I shouldn't have done" and he apologises for doing so.

    Wood pellets

    He explains that it "was being widely discussed in the industry" that the RHI was going to be amended to make it less lucrative.

    He says his cousin was concerned that the cost controls would have an impact on him after he'd made a significant investment in biomass boilers.

    Sending his cousin the submission was done to "provide reassurance that it didn't impact on his existing business", he says, and was not to give "prior notice of what changes were going to take place".

  16. 'More than happy to comment on key RHI paper'

    By late spring and early summer in 2015 the wheels were coming off the RHI wagon - it was running badly beyond its budget and officials were trying to draw up a plan to rein in the spending on it.

    A submission outlining the plans to add cost controls was drawn up on 8 July for the minister Mr Bell.

    A document that reads: Strictly confidential

    His adviser Mr Cairns shared it with his fellow DUP advisers Dr Crawford and Stephen Brimstone for their "information and input".

    Asked about that, Dr Crawford says he told Mr Cairns he would "take a look at it" and would be "more than happy to provide comments" about it.

    Dr Crawford subsequently sent the paper to the senior DUP adviser Mr Johnston.

  17. 'I was told to help fellow adviser on complex issues'

    Dr Crawford says he was told in late June 2015 to "help out" Mr Cairns out because he was "new into post" and the work was "not easy".

    He can't remember whether it was his then minister Mrs Foster or Mr Johnston who told him that.

    Two men in a meeting

    He says that the RHI scheme was not specifically mentioned.

    "It was only [to] provide assistance in his new role until he gets up and going because it was a new department - obviously complex areas of work - [due to] my previous experience in that department," he adds.

  18. 'I wasn't aware of meeting between Johnston, Bell and Cairns'

    Senior DUP adviser Timothy Johnston (below), DETI minister Jonathan Bell and Mr Cairns met at the end of June to clear the air after a fall-out between the Mr Bell and Mr Cairns.

    Mr Cairns has said that the RHI scheme was discussed at the meeting.

    Timothy Johnston

    Mr Johnston has been asked by the inquiry whether he "suggested, questioned or gave instructions" to Mr Cairns to "seek the latest date for the introduction" of cost controls to the RHI.

    In his witness statement, he replies that he "didn't do so - I do not believe that RHI was discussed during the meeting in June 2015" when Mr Cairns says the remarks were made.

    Dr Crawford tells the inquiry that he wasn't aware of the meeting.

  19. 'I knew relationship between Bell and adviser wasn't good'

    In May 2015, Dr Crawford's moved with Arlene Foster from DETI to the Department of Finance and Personnel and Tim Cairns took up the adviser role at the enterprise department.

    According to Dr Crawford's witness statement, the two advisers met to discuss "key issues" facing DETI but he doesn't believe they discussed the RHI scheme.

    Jonathan Bell

    The next month there were disagreements between Mr Cairns and the DETI minister Jonathan Bell (above) when the adviser suggested that Mr Bell should take advice about enterprise matters from his predecessor Mrs Foster and her adviser.

    Dr Crawford says he received a call from a "highly distressed" Mr Cairns afterwards - asked why Mr cairns phoned him, the witness says he doesn't know but DUP advisers "all work fairly closely together".

    "I knew at that stage the relationship was not good between the two individuals," he adds.

  20. What's happened today at the RHI Inquiry?

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI politics reporter

    A former DUP adviser who resigned over the RHI scheme told the inquiry that he believes his party worked to "pin the blame" on him for the debacle.

    Burning wood pellets

    Dr Andrew Crawford was an adviser to Arlene Foster in Stormont's enterprise department when the scheme was set up but he quite in January 2017 after it was alleged that he had exerted influence to delay cost controls, which he denies.

    He told the inquiry he was unhappy about how the DUP handled the events.