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Hexham MP calls for relaxation on red diesel after snow ordeal

HEXHAM MP Guy Opperman is calling on the Government to abolish rules preventing farmers from helping their local communities after his car had to be pulled from a snow drift earlier this week.

A farmer in Penshaw village uses his tractor as a snow plough

HEXHAM MP Guy Opperman is calling on the Government to abolish rules preventing farmers from helping their local communities after his car had to be pulled from a snow drift earlier this week.

Mr Opperman was travelling along Northumberland’s Military Road on Tuesday when his car became stuck on a hill three miles away from his home near Stamfordham.

A nearby farmer came to the MP’s rescue in his tractor – clearing the road and putting some salt on the hill – so that Mr Opperman could drive safely on his way.

Now, the Conservative MP is planning to speak to farming minister David Heath about repealing the rules on the use of red diesel which allows farmers to help local communities during adverse weather.

He said: “I believe anything that makes farmers’ lives easier so that they are able to work and help others in their community is a good thing.

“I was brought up on a farm and I’ve recently experienced the help of a number of local farmers on the Military Road. It seems logical that the rules on red diesel should be relaxed all year round, especially in the rural areas of West Northumberland.

“I will be taking this issue up with the farming minister when I can actually make it back to Parliament! My flight to London was cancelled on Sunday due to the snow and ice.”

There is already a temporary relaxation of the rules on the use of red diesel that allows farmers to help grit public roads to enable them to help their community in adverse weather.

They are allowed to use red diesel in their tractors, and other approved farm machinery, to help provide access to schools, hospitals, remote dwellings or communities cut off by ice and snow.

There is an understanding among HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) officers that a farmer should not be prosecuted if he or she is discovered helping others in farm machinery during extreme weather.

This comes after the HMRC recognised the vital role that farmers play across the country during the winter weather.

Now, HMRC is pushing for a draft amendment to the legislation for ministerial approval that will make the overturned rule more permanent and this will be publicised when the changes come into effect. NFU transport spokesman John Collen said: “This is an issue the NFU has been pursuing for a number of years. HMRC has shown that it understands the issues facing rural communities in times of extreme weather.

“We are pleased that the proposed amendments will extend to all vehicles registered in agricultural tax class, which includes agricultural quad bikes, and that there will be no limit on distance.”

 

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