Gordon Constituency MP Richard Thomson raised the threat to the future of ploughing matches and charity tractor runs on the floor of the House of Commons today.
The SNP MP asked the Leader of the House of Commons for a debate on getting the rules around red diesel usage – due to change on 1 April – ‘flushed away’ instead of farmers being expected to flush their fuel tanks and change diesel type.
The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg responded saying he had “a great deal of sympathy” with what Mr Thomson was saying and revealed that a late cousin of his was a ploughing match competitor in Somerset.
Commenting after the exchange, Richard Thomson MP said:
“Extracting sympathy from the Leader of the House is rarely an easy task but it seems to have helped that Jacob Rees-Mogg had a family member keen on ploughing matches so knew something of the subject.
“I trust that when he makes the promised approach to the Treasury that he too will be lobbying for a change of direction on this ill-thought-out policy. The very real threat to charity fundraising and also the skills-development aspect of competitive ploughing matches is something we do not want to see jeopardised.”
The full exchange at Business Questions in the House of Commons today was as follows:
Richard Thomson (SNP)(Gordon):
Ploughing matches and tractor runs are really important parts of rural life in the north-east of Scotland and far beyond, bringing the community together and allowing for the transfer of skills in the agricultural community. However, they are being put at risk by a rule change introduced by the Treasury from 1 April that will forbid the use of red diesel in vehicles for such purposes. Could we have a debate in Government time to discuss the deleterious impact of that rule change? Farmers, rather than flushing their tanks, may simply not take part, to the detriment of all. Can we have that debate to discuss how we might perhaps flush this unnecessary rule change instead of asking farmers to do the same with their tanks?
Leader of the House of Commons (Jacob Rees-Mogg):
In Somerset, they have ploughing matches, which are, as the hon. Gentleman says, things that people enjoy. Actually, a late cousin of mine was exceptionally good at winning those ploughing competitions, so I have a great deal of sympathy with what he is saying. Of course, taxation is a matter for the Chancellor, but I will ensure that his point is passed on to the Treasury.