DUP Spad warned Moy Park of RHI closure, at cost to taxpayers

DUP Spad Andrew Crawford
DUP Spad Andrew Crawford

On February 8, 2016, the public were told that the RHI scheme was closing.

However, Andrew Crawford – Arlene Foster’s long-standing Spad who had just moved to work for new Finance Minister Mervyn Storey – gave the company an inside track on what was to come.

In a period where a few days could be difference between having time to get a boiler installed and accredited for the scheme or losing out, Dr Crawford went to Moy Park on January 15 to tell senior executives Janet McCollum and Mike Mullan that the scheme was going to close.

Due to delays which are the subject of the inquiry’s investigations, the scheme wasn’t closed until Feb 29.

Mr Mullan sent an internal email with “confidential” information that Dr Crawford had “unofficially briefed” them that the scheme would soon be closed. Senior Moy Park figure Alan Gibson said that it meant there was a need for a “final push” to get as many of the company’s farmers into the scheme.

Anther email showed that Moy Park’s chief executive emailed Moy Park manager David Mark to thank him for his work in securing the extension. However, Mr Mark denied to the inquiry that he had done anything at that point to secure a delay to the closure.

The inquiry was told of multiple contacts between Dr Crawford and senior Moy Park figures over a prolonged period. Mrs Foster told the inquiry that she expected him to be contact with them because Moy Park was a huge “strategic” company for Northern Ireland.

Earlier, during the period where cost controls were being considered in mid-2015, Dr Crawford again seems to have potentially been involved.

On 4 August 2015, Mr Mark sent an email to his boss, Simon Oborn, which included an extract of an email where the names have been removed. In his covering email to his colleague, Mr Mark said “got this from a contact in government”.

When asked by the inquiry to identify who the contact in government was, Mr Mark said “I cannot recall the identity of the sender and I have been unable to find the original email, despite a trawl of the documents supplied to the inquiry as part of the Moy Park documents notice response”

The exchange came days after Mr Mark had met DUP Spad Andrew Crawford on his brother’s poultry farm.

It was put to Mr Mark that the information he forwarded - a warning from a boiler installer that DETI was proposing to cut the subsidy to tackle abuse of the scheme - was identical to another email which the inquiry has obtained from Dr Crawford and which was sent to him the day before it arrived with Mr Mark.

Mr Mark agreed that it was logical to assume that his “contact in government” may therefore have been Dr Crawford but insisted that he had no memory of the incident.