GOVERNMENT PLANS to tighten up the rules governing the use of red diesel on the roads have sparked a fierce debate among farmers.

Some farmers are opposed to any changes to arrangements, but others are saying that tighter restrictions should be introduced to stamp down on people abusing the current system.

FWi Talking Point user Stephen Collett said if he was prevented from using red diesel when driving on public roads then it would cost him £6000-£7000 a year.

“The truth is that [the Chancellor] Gordon Brown has got into a mess as the tax is not coming in from other sources, so he is desperately looking for other easy targets. Why does he not look at taxing aviation fuel which is easily the biggest polluter or ships’ fuel?”

Another FWi user, known as Wooly, added: “This is to get back at farmers for helping with the fuel blockade a few years ago.”

But others readers have conceded that some people are abusing the current arrangements and changes to the rules could safeguard the availability of red diesel more generally.

John Smith of Park Farm, Etwall, Derbys agreed that there were “quite a lot of cowboys on the road and some people abuse the current system like mad.

“Red diesel is in danger of disappearing completely unless the government is given something,” he warned. “There is a need for stricter rules.”

Robert Curtis, a farmer and contractor from Honiton in Devon, said he felt the industry had to meet the government halfway.

“The government could justify doing away with red diesel on environmental grounds alone,” he said. “Why should we not have to pay any road tax? And why do we feel that we should not have to MOT tractors? It would raise revenue and by going down this route it might help us to retain the right to use red fuel.”

Mr Curtis said he could also see the sense of bringing in a speed limit for tractors using red diesel but he suggested it should be 30mph. “We don’t want to alienate the public even more,” he explained.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk