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SPAD: I DIDN'T KNOW OF RHI COST CONTROL BID; Party chief appears at inquiry; Johnston denies ordering delay.

Byline: CATE McCURRY

THE DUP's chief executive has rejected claims he knew party advisers were working on cost controls for a green energy scheme.

Timothy Johnston also told a public inquiry yesterday he was "absolutely certain" he had not instructed a delay in implementing such measures.

The DUP's most senior official said he was not aware of the work two fellow special advisers were doing on the Renewable Heat Incentive during the summer of 2015.

The inquiry earlier heard Timothy Cairns claim he sought advice from Dr Andrew Crawford on delaying the introduction of cost controls. Mr Johnston said he "couldn't recall" a phone conversation with Mr Cairns in August 2015 in which they spoke about the matter.

Mr Cairns claimed Mr Johnston was made aware of plans to "seek the latest date officials can live with" in the delay, adding Mr Johnston did not raise any objections to this.

However, Mr Johnston said he had "no memory" of that conversation and denied receiving an emailed submission from Dr Crawford on RHI.

He added: "I would not have been surprised if the two men were interacting on DETI [Department of Enterprise] business."

When probed about the email sent by Dr Crawford, Mr Johnston said he never opened it and left to go on holiday. He added: "This goes right to the heart of why I think I am sitting here today and over the last two years I have been scratching my head as to how this has traced back to me.

"I am absolutely certain there was no discussion about RHI or the other issue [tariff control] in that period."

During the hearing, Mr Johnston was described as the "second most powerful person" in the DUP" behind the leader.

The witness said he has worked within the party structure for a long time and with that came a "greater sense of knowledge".

irish@mgn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

EVIDENCE Timothy Johnston

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 29, 2018
Words:322
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