Chelsea tractor tax burden on farming’

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Chancellor Gordon Brown is facing calls to exempt farmers from tax hikes on so-called Chelsea tractors. Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski said proposals in the budget, which will see tax on some 4x4s rise to £300 and eventually £400 per year, would put a further burden on UK agriculture.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Chancellor Gordon Brown is facing calls to exempt farmers from tax hikes on so-called Chelsea tractors.

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski said proposals in the budget, which will see tax on some 4x4s rise to £300 and eventually £400 per year, would put a further burden on UK agriculture.

But his call received a mixed response from Norfolk farmers' leaders and MPs last night.

Bob Young, Norfolk NFU chairman, said he had mixed feelings about the idea as few farmers used the newer 4x4 type vehicles for work.

"Most farmers tend to drive diesel vehicles which don't fall in the top band G," he said.

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"But while the government wants to have an attack on Chelsea tractors, some farmers are collateral damage."

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson, said a farmers' exemption could prove impossible to enforce.

"While it's superficially attractive, I think it would be just too complicated to do," he said.

"I can see there are a lot of farmers who might like it but there may well be other people working who use these vehicles in rural areas such as plumbers, electricians and hauliers.

"I would like to see the manufacturers take the lead and produce engines which are not going to be polluters."

But South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who has recently bought a second-hand Pajero, welcomed the idea.

"There's no doubt whatsoever that for farmers 4x4s are working vehicles," he said.

"It's an essential part of farmers' life and I find myself that there are parts of the constituency which are difficult to get to without one. That's one of the reasons I bought one.

"I think Daniel is right."

Mr Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, supporting measures to reduce the emissions from "unnecessarily large" domestic vehicles, claimed farmers needed 4x4s as an integral part of their industry.

"Far too many people in urban areas are driving around in gas-guzzling Chelsea tractors and I certainly believe they should rightly be heavily taxed," he said.

"However, this tax will also hit our struggling British farming community and this is a totally unacceptable side effect of the proposed tax rise.

"Farmers need large 4x4 vehicles for covering rough terrain and for towing stock trailers - it is a business requirement, not a luxury or a lifestyle choice as it is for town dwellers."

Urging chancellor Gordon Brown to amend his Budget proposals to exempt genuine farming businesses from the additional road tax, he added: "I meet farmers from my constituency on almost a weekly basis, who are fighting to protect their livelihoods, or who tragically have had to abandon farming altogether.

"When farmers are barely making ends meet, it is disgraceful that the government is putting yet another nail in the coffin of British farming."