Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster's ex-Spad admits email to relatives on RHI improper

By Staff Reporter

A former special adviser to the DUP has said it was "inappropriate" for him to have emailed relatives with details of changes to cost controls in the Renewable Heat Incentive - months before they were announced.

In July 2015 Andrew Crawford, who had been an aide to former First Minister Arlene Foster, emailed the details of the proposed changes to his cousin Richard Crawford and brother-in-law Wallace Gregg, a dairy farmer.

There is no suggestion the two men did anything wrong.

The changes to the cost controls were seen as necessary as more applicants came on board.

The costs of the scheme would eventually spiral out of control, as participants could earn more in grants than they were spending in biomass fuel.

In January 2017 Dr Crawford quit as the political storm over the 'cash for ash' scheme grew.

In a witness statement to the inquiry currently investigating the scheme, he said: "I acknowledge that I should not have sent the submission to Richard Crawford. I accept that this was inappropriate in my role as Special Adviser and I sincerely regret having done so."

He said he understood that Richard Crawford "didn't do anything with the information".

Andrew Crawford is due to give evidence to the inquiry today.

He also told the inquiry in his statement that Mr Gregg had told him he was planning a new dairy parlour on his farm "and was advised by someone in early July to apply to the RHI scheme before the tariffs changed".

"I forwarded the submission to him for information," he said.

"I acknowledge that I should not have sent the submission to Wallace Gregg. I accept that this was inappropriate behaviour in my role as Special Adviser and I sincerely regret having done so."

However, Mr Gregg did not install any boilers or receive a subsidy.

In his own witness statement, Richard Crawford said he had started ordering the equipment he needed in early 2015, and his cousin's email had not encouraged him to apply to the RHI scheme.

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