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Local MP Rory Stewart has welcomed news that changes to the law which would allow tractors to use red diesel for gritting roads have been published by the Government, and are close to implementation. The Penrith and the Border MP has on behalf of a number of constituents lobbied both HMRC, Defra and the NFU in recent months to press for a change in the law, which would enable farm tractors to grit local roads during extreme weather conditions. Currently, only purpose-built or adapted gritters may use red diesel when they are being used to grit roads. Tractors are often the only vehicles capable of both clearing and gritting roads in these communities.
Rory Stewart MP said: "This is great news, and shows that our lobbying efforts can pay off, particularly when common-sense dictates a sensible solution. Many rural communities are too remote to benefit from municipal gritting activities, leaving them cut off in times of severe weather. There are many, many such examples here in Penrith and the Border, and farmers in particular have written to me on numerous occasions to ask me to challenge what seemed to be a silly law. Once again, this government is proving that we can deliver on common-sense and flexibility, and in cutting unnecessary red tap. It's another victory for rural communities."
Steven Clarke, of the oils policy team at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), said a temporary relaxation in the rules could be made permanent. "In recent winters during extreme weather we have temporarily allowed tractors and other agricultural vehicles gritting rural roads to use red diesel. We are now considering whether we need to change the law to formalise this and make it permanent."
The Government believes their use could make a difference in maintaining road access for supply vehicles and the emergency services during extreme weather. The recent series of severe winters in the UK has led to increased calls for farmers to use their tractors to grit roads in rural areas. During periods of extreme weather, HMRC has temporarily relaxed rules around use of red diesel and allowed tractors being used for gritting rural roads to be fuelled with red diesel.
Mr Clarke said HMRC would welcome views on the consultation document: "Use of rebated fuel for gritting in rural areas" from anyone who would be affected by any changes. It was also seeking responses from those involved in the provision of gritting services or equipment, including councils, agencies and other bodies. The consultation document 'Use of rebated fuel for gritting in rural areas' can be found online, and views must be sent to HMRC by 5 October 2012.