THE GOVERNMENT has admitted it would like to restrict the use of tractors on the road because they cause pollution, traffic congestion and cost the Treasury in terms of duty.

Customs and Excise has issued a joint consultation paper with the Treasury which suggests that ways need to be found to discourage “inappropriate road use by tractors”.

The document claims oils fraud costs the Exchequer more than £0.5bn a year and that most of this figure can be attributed to the misuse of red diesel on public roads.

It complains that increasingly tractors are being used to haul agricultural goods simply because entitlement to use red diesel makes them more economic than other vehicles.

But it adds: “In the case of road haulage for agricultural loads, there is no reason why a lower rate of duty should apply than for other goods.

“Nor is there any obvious justification for providing, through entitlement to rebated gas oil [red diesel], an incentive to use vehicles which conform to less rigorous safety requirements, which are less fuel efficient and which produce more harmful emissions.”

The document continues by saying that since tractors are subject to far less rigorous safety checks than other vehicles and because they cause road congestion they should only make use of roads “in circumstances where such use cannot be reasonably avoided.”

One of the suggestions it has put forward to solve the problem is a restriction on the distance that can be travelled on the road in a tractor.

Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said the consultation clearly showed that the government was not interested in farming and food production.

“If it took notice of all the evidence submitted to it week after week it would know that farmers can not afford any more costs,” he said.

“We will not tolerate any increase in duty for farmers as they must not be penalised for doing what they have done for generations.”

Mr Handley admitted that there were people outside farming who had bought high-speed tractors so they could haul goods using red diesel.

“You can’t hide the fact that there are a lot of ancillary businesses who have been buying high-speed tractors so they can make a saving on haulage,” he said.

“But I don’t think farmers should take the blame for this.”

A NFU spokesman said the union was currently consulting its members on a number of questions posed in the proposals.

But the spokesman added that the union would “work to maintain current arrangements on the use of red diesel in the agriculture sector”.

To read the consultation paper click here…