New red diesel rules could ‘spell the end’ of charity tractor runs councillor warns

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The new red diesel rules could spell the end of successful tractor runs, which are ‘an important asset to charity fundraising’ – Councillor Harold McKee has warned.

The TUV Mourne councillor and South Down candidate for the 2022 assembly elections, joined the UFU on Tuesday via zoom to listen to HMRC officials explain the new changes to rebated fuel from 1 April 2022.

Cllr McKee said the large number of questions posed underscored the reality that there remains a “great deal of confusion about this policy”.

“These changes will be as a result of the 2020 and 2021 Budgets announced by the Chancellor, which made clear that entitlement to use red diesel and rebated fuels will be removed from most sectors from 1 April 2022,” Cllr McKee explained.

TUV assembly candidate, Councillor Harold McKeeTUV assembly candidate, Councillor Harold McKee
TUV assembly candidate, Councillor Harold McKee

“This will be a significant change from the current approach, where only certain vehicles and machines will be allowed to use rebated fuel for specific purposes.

“The government argues that these changes are designed to reduce the negative environmental impact of emissions and incentivise businesses to improve the energy efficiency of machinery.”

He added: “The reality, as I have heard from many, is that it will increase costs and with those with red diesel in their engines being told that they will have to drain them, in spite of manufacture instructions warning against doing such, could cause lasting damage to engines.”

Cllr McKee was “disappointed” to hear the HMRC officers confirm tractors, or similar vehicles, used in vintage tractor runs and ploughing matches were no longer allowed to use red diesel after 1 April, as this is “not seen as for agricultural purposes”.

“One of my questions to the officers included this query, and alerted them to the fact that this could spell the end of these successful shows as they were an important asset to charity fundraising,” he continued.

“It is well known that a lot of tractors involved in tractor runs are in everyday use on the farm and would, therefore, legitimately use red diesel on a regular basis.

“There were a large number of questions put to the officials on the webinar, a fact which underscored the reality that there remains a great deal of confusion about this policy, which takes no account of the reality on the ground for many farmers.

“Although most of the rebated fuel will be used by the farmer for agricultural purposes, they will not be affected in the same way as the construction industry, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, road maintenance, plant hire, waste management, ports and airports, generators, water pumps, forklifts used in hardware stores and refrigerator generators on haulage vehicles will all have to use white diesel.”

Cllr McKee said he does not see “any abundance” of green fuel on the market that can be used as an alternative to diesel to power heavy machinery.

He stated: “All housing developments, road works, farm drainage, etc. will fall foul of the fuel changes as the construction businesses will all have to increase their handling and manufacturing prices accordingly to absorb the extra 11.14 pence per litre of fuel.

“Obviously, this expected increase in prices will have a detrimental impact on the economy, as the consumer will be expected to pay the additional costs,” he ended.

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