Red diesel will not be permitted for tractor runs or ploughing matches from 1 April

From 1 April, anyone taking part in a charity tractor run or ploughing match will be required to run their machine on white diesel, it has been confirmed.

When the new legislation comes into force, red diesel will only be permitted when the vehicle is being used for the purpose of agriculture, meaning tanks will have to be flushed before attending a tractor run.

Newry and Armagh DUP assemblyman, William Irwin MLA, has said that the rule changes, whilst not severely impacting farming processes, will have an impact economically across many sectors, including the hugely popular charity tractor runs.

During a recent webinar with UFU and HMRC, government revenue officials stated that charity tractor runs and ploughing matches would not be considered exempt from having to use white diesel.

William Irwin MLA

Mr Irwin said this “showed where the anomalies will exist” and urged again for a rethink on the policy generally.

He commented: “Whilst agriculture is being considered as an exemption generally from the proposed red diesel rebate rule changes, there will still be wider ramifications across the economy and it simply isn’t in my view a good time to be changing the rules on fuel rebates.

“The obvious reason being that we are coming out of a worldwide pandemic that has had massive implications, not only on health but also the economy.”

He continued: “Indeed the administration and enforcement of the proposed rules appears to me to be a total minefield and when you learn that a charity tractor run or an annual ploughing match will have to be participated in using white diesel under the new rules, it is easy to see just how unworkable this whole situation will be.”

The DAERA committee member added: “The area of charity tractor runs is a huge implication for organisers and, if not exempted, would have a very detrimental impact on charity fundraising work, which is so well supported by the rural and farming community.

“The reality of the rule changes means participants in the tractor run would have to drain fuel tanks of red diesel and refill with white diesel and then do the opposite on completion of the event, that is simply not practical to do and makes no common sense whatsoever.”

Mr Irwin stated: “The wider economic implications of course will be felt on other sectors who have enjoyed the capacity of using lower cost red diesel in machinery such as diggers and dumpers on construction sites.

“This will have an impact and all at a time when construction material costs are eye wateringly expensive.

“I have raised this issue with the Treasury directly and I await a full response to, what are, very concerning ramifications around this rebate change.

“There simply must be a pause on this process and an urgent rethink on the real and concerning ramifications of the proposed changes,” he concluded.