The NFU is backing a proposed relaxation in the rules on the use of red diesel to allow farmers to grit roads during severe wintry weather.

The Government has announced that HRMC will carry out a consultation in the New Year, following an informal review into wider use of the rebated fuel for a range of community and charitable activities.

NFU assistant regulatory affairs adviser Ben Coates said: “We support a change in the rules as this would allow our farmer members to grit roads without falling foul of the law. A temporary relaxation of the legislation over the past couple of winters has been a common sense approach to dealing with exceptionally difficult conditions.

“It would also provide clarity to farmers who can already use red diesel in agricultural machinery to clear snow in order to provide access to schools, hospitals, remote dwellings or communities that are cut off in periods of extreme weather.

“Meanwhile, it is important to remember that even if you are in a position to help and have the equipment to do so, the current position is still that you cannot use red diesel when applying grit using a tractor and spreader, whether trailed or mounted.”

“However, the exclusion of other community-based activities such as grass cutting from the review is extremely disappointing. While HMRC maintains their officers will take a ‘common-sense’ approach, I am worried that there will be a degree of inconsistency across the country, with some farmers being penalised and others not. The NFU will continue to maintain a close working relationship with HMRC on this issue.”