Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Banality of Evil

Hiding behind "lack of discretion to give warnings", brave customs officials pounced on a wicked Farmer who mows a local football pitch once a fortnight. For free.

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.



16 comments:

JuliaM said...

" 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."

Well, Christ, man, don't stop them! We need to see more of this sort of thing, so people will finally wake up and decide to do something about it!

Yeah, I know. In my dreams, right?

Anonymous said...

Christ that HMRC guys is such a joyless maggot

Anonymous said...

What have joyless maggots ever done to deserve this unfair comparison?

Henry Crun said...

Of course HMRC had no choice in the matter, they were just following orders.

I'm sure that excuse has been used before...

JimmyGiro said...

Even children playing in the dirt, develop strong immune systems; because they are responding to their environment. Our immune system is dangerous to us, if it is not properly tempered.

The trouble with 'officialdomitis' is that there is no reactive feedback to the symptoms or the condition. Hence the Eichmann types of this world, develop allergic reactions to the society that spawned them.

Society needs the 'rule of law', but that itself needs to be tempered by purpose, not mere reflex. And society will become stronger if it can react from time to time, against pointless ticks, and other bureaucratic infestations, that blight our one existence.

Single acts of tyranny said...

Let's not forget the Roland Frieslers of this world in the court who didn't throw it out.

If the courts were here to serve justice, then would not a reasonable minded judge have said to HMRC "Are you kidding me?"

And this small 'man' in HMRC did have a choice, he could have simply ignored it, or decided that the investigation was a waste of resources. He did not, choosing instead to advance his "career"

I thus suggest ostracising any state officials like this that you know.

Rosemary UK said...

What a waste of time and money !!HMRC need to concentrate on stopping all these illegal immigrants getting into the country instead of worrying about a bit of red diesel.

Jim said...

HMRC were quoted in the BBC article as saying "it was illegal to use it for mowing as it was was purely for agricultural, horticultural and forestry use."

This is not correct by their own definition. HMRC advice note 75 details when vehicles may use rebated diesel ('red diesel') on the roads. Section 8.3 covers tractors.

http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/channelsPortalWebApp.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pageExcise_ShowContent&propertyType=document&id=HMCE_CL_000164

Note it is the use ON THE ROAD which is the crucial matter. It is illegal to drive a tractor using red diesel on a public road if the purpose of your journey is not agriculture, forestry or horticulture. It is not illegal to use red diesel in a tractor to cut a sports field per se, though it is illegal if you drove along the road to get there. It is not clear in the case in Devon whether the farmer had to use the highway to get there. If he did, he WAS committing an offence. If he did not use the highway he committed no offence.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this would be a good time to put a little information into the public domain:

There is a document concerning the rail industry, which also uses red diesel in locomotives & its relationship with HMRC. (Regrettably the link has long been lost but the subject matter stuck firmly in the memory).It discusses the technical details of the addition of biodiesel to regular diesel & the awkward result this has of rendering the colouring dye ineffective.
I seem to remember the document was dated sometime in the early 2000's and no mention was made of a solution to the difficulty. Maybe the dyes have been changed. Maybe this proved problematic. Someone in a position to experiment cold possibly clarify the matter, purely in the spirit of honest scientific research of course......

SadButMadLad said...

Since when is mowing grass not an agricultural task?

FedUpWithHMRC said...

The new answer to these issues seems to be that if you don't like it then move to country where taxation isn't an issue.

And yet they seem upset.

Anonymous said...

This guy cannot mow the cricket pitch with red diesel, but hundreds, nay thousands of private yachts are churning around with red diesel, quite legally. This country needs a kick up the backside with its laws.

Anonymous said...

So who ratted him out? Did some overzealous drone of HMRC see the tractor and inspect it (setting aside the likelihood of that kind of insight or clue)?

I hope Mr Gaiger realizes that if he is reported for any offense, no matter how trivial or invasive, anyone who reports him would obviously have no choice in the matter.

Anonymous said...

"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 could be said of many in the private sector too. The difference is that civil service has a LEGAL requirement to stick to the rules and the rules are signed off by the politicians, so get your target right.

Not long ago I tried to cancel a contract with Virgin Media. This apparently can't be done without giving a password, even from the telephone that was the subject of the contract. However no one in the family knew what my mother's password had been and being deceased she was in no position to help. Total block, even when explaining the situation. Solution: Call up another operator 20 minutes later and explain that we had forgotten our password, "No problem, what would you like the new one to be!".

Fred Z said...

A post of courage would have included the email, phone number and home address of this Bob Gaiger cretin, and his immediate supervisors and theirs.

I am not encouraging violence just yet but annoyed phone calls, emails and perhaps a bit of lawful picketing could not hurt, could they?

Anonymous said...

Having recently returned to the UK from working in the Middle East, I've taken to watching the fly-on-the-wall Customs puff programmes that tell us viewers how truly wonderful they are.

But they seem to put far too much effort into stopping tobacco smugglers, always highlighting 'how much tax they steal from you and me'

Bollocks. As a non-smoker, it is evident that the tax is too high, unreasonably so and if the government weren't such a bunch of thieving, wasteful bastards, we might be able to lower the tax burden.

By over-taxing, they've created a viable market to be exploited. Customs should forget tobacco and concentrate their efforts on drugs and immigrants.

Simples!

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