23 October 2001
MEPs delay tractor hours limit

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

EURO-MPs have amended controversial legislation that would have restricted farmers to just a few hours a day in their tractor cabs.

The Physical Agents (Vibrations) Directive was intended to limit workers exposure to vibrations from machinery to protect them from back injuries.

But it attracted widespread opposition from farmers leaders who argued that the plan was totally unworkable and based on dodgy science.

MEPs granted agriculture and forestry a five-year exemption to the exposure limits in a crucial vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday (23 October).

The National Farmers Union welcomed the news, claiming that there was no scientific evidence linking tractor use with health problems.

“I am pleased we have persuaded the MEPs of the ridiculousness of this proposal,” said NFU vice-president Michael Paske.

Some British MEPs have also applauded the decision, with Lib-Dem Liz Lynne describing it as a victory for common sense.

“It would have caused massive problems and expense for most farmers, many of whom are on the verge of bankruptcy,” she said.

But Tory MEP, Philip Bushill-Matthews said said he would be making a push for further improvements as the legislation enters its final stage.

The five-year exemption would be little consolation for a farmer who had bought a tractor expecting it to last for 20-30 years.

Mr Bushill-Matthews also expressed concern for the mining and construction sectors which have five years to achieve the new limits.

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