Because he’s a farmer, the fuel ALREADY IN THE TRACTOR’S TANK will be cheaper, low-duty red diesel. This however can, by law only be used for farming, or forestry purposes. So Mr Thorne is breaking the law, by mowing a football pitch, for free, once a fortnight, unless he siphons off the red Diesel in the tractor, replacing it with normal diesel to do the job.
I can understand if red diesel was being used for commercial lawn-mowing. I can understand why farmers are expected to put normal diesel in their cars. (Surely wouldn’t it be better to remove the whole invitation to fraud and oppressive inspection and enforcement by simply refunding farmers’ fuel duty, if such a subsidy is necessary?). however any law which says a farmer cannot use his vehicle, normally used for farming, for the benefit of the community without being fined £250, it is the law that is wrong, not the guy helping out Hartland Football Club.
The question I’d like to ask Bob Gaiger, the nasty, petty-minded little Gauleiter of an HMRC spokesman who pointed out, as if it were some kind of explanation, that revenue & customs officers “had no choice in the matter”, whether he thought this was an appropriate use of HMRC officers’ time. Who, pray, is he protecting by this zealous law-enforcement? If Government, as we are so often told, is there to help, protect and support the people (ha!), who benefits? Not the local kids, whose football pitch will no longer get mowed for free. Nor the revenue, whose officers will be paid more than the £250 it raised in fines. Certainly not Mr Thorne who’s just had his money taken from him otherwise his tractor would have been impounded.
Do you think a reasonable person (i.e. not a despicable little state apparatchik) thinks Gritting the roads for free is an acceptable use of Red Diesel? Who benefits from this? A local community in a remote rural area, down the bottom of the list of destinations for the Council-run gritters. Of course All it requires is that the law allow Farmers to use red diesel for non-profit, or occasional community support activity, so long as this is not the main use of the vehicle, and allow the Customs officials a bit of discretion in deciding who is taking the piss, and who is helping their local community.
Nothing annoys me more than officials’ overzealous enforcement of rules. This may give satisfaction to the kind of dull-minded inadequates who populate the civil service, but is exactly what makes people resent the state and it over intrusive interest in people’s lives. The same people who think that fining a farmer for mowing a football pitch are the same people who think locking up opposing politicians is “just doing their job” because the state says so. “Banality of Evil” is a phrase first used by Hannah Arendt of Adolf Eichmann, who wrote that states can achieve great evil only by normalising the actions which lead up to it. It’s a warning that just because something is written in Law, doesn’t make it right. The law has only a passing, tangential relationship with justice. Banal, unimaginative people in a sensible state like the UK may only be fining farmers a few quid for a minor transgression such as using red diesel to grit the roads or mow a sports pitch, but this is of negative utility. No-one benefits. Indeed a number of people’s lives are made a bit worse. Villagers who can’t get to town until the council get round to gritting the road near them, or a sports team whose game subs have to go on commercial lawn-mowing, not an end of season piss-up. The HMRC should not be in the business of preventing people helping out their neighbours. No-one should pretend that this is the same as the people who enforced the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi for example, but it’s on the same slope. Someone who is capable of enforcing such a manifest, if petty injustice, is capable of much, much worse.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so Bob Gaiger and your ilk: we have our eyes on you, you banal, unimaginative, vile, totalitarian squit.