Belfast Telegraph

RHI inquiry: Foster's ex-adviser Crawford denies row with civil servant over RHI family ties

Former DUP special adviser Dr Andrew Crawford had three close relatives with 11 boilers in the overspending RHI scheme but denied discussing finances with them (RHI inquiry/PA)
Former DUP special adviser Dr Andrew Crawford had three close relatives with 11 boilers in the overspending RHI scheme but denied discussing finances with them (RHI inquiry/PA)

By Mark Edwards

A former DUP special adviser to Arlene Foster has denied senior civil servant David Sterling accused him of keeping the RHI scheme open "for the benefit of his family" - or that the two had a row over the matter.

Dr Andrew Crawford, giving evidence on Friday morning, refuted evidence given to the the RHI inquiry by former Stormont Minister Jonathan Bell who said Mr Sterling had a "loud altercation" with Dr Crawford in September 2015.

Mr Bell claimed that Mr Sterling accused him of plotting to keep the scheme open because his brother and two cousins were part of the RHI scheme.

Dr Crawford said: "I welcome the opportunity to address this because it was widely reported in the media. I worked with David Sterling both in DETI and DFP [Department of Finance and Personnel] when I was adviser and he was permanent secretary and at no stage did we have loud altercations or rows or anything else."

Dr Crawford also rejected a suggestion by inquiry chair Sir Patrick Coghlin that a suggested amendment he made to cost controls in the Summer of 2015 was a "sales pitch for Moy Park".

Read how Dr Crawford's evidence unfolded here:

 

Who's who at the RHI Inquiry: Chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin (centre) is charged with unravelling how the botched green energy scheme exposed the public to such a huge potential overspend. He is pictured with Dame Una O'Brien who was Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health (DH) in London from 2010 to 2016, and Keith MacLean who worked in the energy industry for 20 years and advised government on policy. He was Policy and Research Director at SSE.
Who's who at the RHI Inquiry: Chairman Sir Patrick Coghlin (centre) is charged with unravelling how the botched green energy scheme exposed the public to such a huge potential overspend. He is pictured with Dame Una O'Brien who was Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health (DH) in London from 2010 to 2016, and Keith MacLean who worked in the energy industry for 20 years and advised government on policy. He was Policy and Research Director at SSE.
ARLENE FOSTER DUP leader and former First Minister. Minister at Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Deti) when the RHI scheme began in 2012. Subsidy tariffs were set too high without a cap, leading to costs spiralling out of control. She described it as her "deepest political regret", but denies claims by Jonathan Bell, her former party colleague and successor as Enterprise Minister, that she ordered him to keep the scheme open.
Timothy Johnston After being a special adviser to Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson, Mr Johnston became a Spad to Arlene Foster when she took on the role of First Minister in January 2016. He was accused by Mr Bell of not allowing the RHI scheme to close in early autumn 2015, but he has rejected that allegation. Following the collapse of the Stormont Executive over the RHI scandal in early 2017, he became chief executive of the DUP.
JONATHAN BELL Succeeded Arlene Foster as Deti minister in May 2015, until May 2016, when RHI costs became a problem. The former DUP Strangford MLA alleged two DUP special advisers (Spads) - Timothy Johnston and Andrew Crawford - intervened to delay the start of cost controls in autumn 2015 - a period when there was a spike in applications to the scheme. He claimed Mrs Foster "overruled" his bid to close the botched scheme in early 2016.
TIMOTHY CAIRNS A former barrister, he was Mr Bell's special adviser at Deti. Mr Bell alleged that Mr Cairns told him that other DUP Spads were not allowing the RHI scheme to be closed in September 2015. Mr Bell said that he believed Mr Cairns saw himself as working for the other Spads and not for him as minister. But Mr Cairns has accused Mr Bell of bullying, swinging a punch at him and trying to break his finger - claims Mr Bell denies.
ANDREW CRAWFORD Spad to Mrs Foster in Deti when RHI was introduced. Quit role in January 2017 after Mr McCormick told a Stormont committee he understood Mr Crawford was exerting influence to keep the scheme's high tariff level. He denied the claim and any wrongdoing. At the RHI Inquiry, he accepted it was "inappropriate" to have shared RHI cost-control plans with family before they were introduced. Now a part-time DUP adviser.
ANDREW MCCORMICK Became permanent secretary at Deti in 2014 and was in post when the RHI scheme's massive overspend became clear. Mr McCormick told the RHI Inquiry that Mr Cairns told him Timothy Johnston, another DUP Spad, was involved in the decision to delay cost controls. In January, it was announced Mr McCormick was being appointed as director-general of international relations for Brexit in the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive.
DAVID STERLING As interim head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, he is effectively the man in charge of running Stormont departments in the absence of devolved government. He was the lead civil servant in Deti when it introduced the flawed RHI scheme in 2012. Mr Bell alleged to the RHI Inquiry that Mr Sterling feared the energy scheme controversy would cost him his chance to become the head of the Civil Service.
CHRIS STEWART Jonathan Bell claimed Chris Stewart, Deti deputy permanent secretary, sought a meeting to blow the whistle on a bid by DUP advisers to remove Mrs Foster's name from RHI documents. Mr Bell said Stewart would back this at an inquiry, but Stewart said he "did not seek a meeting as a whistleblower". He acknowledged a DUP adviser changed the wording of a Deti document, but that Mr Bell later "advised that he had dealt with the matter".
STUART WIGHTMAN A former official at Deti who was responsible for running the RHI scheme in its final weeks. Mr Wightman told the inquiry he directed a colleague to inform poultry producer Moy Park and other interested parties of changes to cost controls as a "courtesy". He also alerted boiler firms and the Ulster Farmers' Union to the delay in cost controls before DUP minister Jonathan Bell had even been asked to approve the proposal.
JANETTE O’HAGAN Ms O'Hagan was selling a heat efficiency product in 2013, but found potential clients were not interested, especially when they had signed up to the RHI scheme. She raised concerns about the scheme with the then-Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster. She told the inquiry she would do the same thing if the RHI debacle happened again, despite unwillingly becoming the centre of a political and media storm.

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