The purpose of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill is to prevent the theft of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) such as quad bikes. The bill would allow the secretary of state to make regulations requiring immobilisers and forensic marking to be fitted as standard to all new ATVs. It would also provide for the secretary of state to make regulations on recording ATV sales. This could include a requirement to register ATV sales on a specific database. In addition, the bill would enable the extension of these powers to other equipment designed or adapted primarily for use in agricultural or commercial settings, such as the construction sector. The bill would extend to England and Wales.

The theft of ATVs is a problem for the agricultural sector, with the government estimating that 900 to 1,200 quad bikes and ATVs are stolen in England and Wales each year. The lack of security features that many manufacturers install in ATVs, as well as recent supply issues, have been making them increasingly desirable for thieves. The insurer NFU Mutual has labelled ATVs “hot ticket items”. The theft of tools and other equipment has also been highlighted as an issue for sectors such as construction.

Equipment theft can affect victims in various ways, including through financial loss and emotional and mental health costs. For example, NFU Mutual estimated that thefts of quad bikes and ATVs cost their customers £2.2mn in 2021. In addition, Direct Line reported that more than £46mn worth of tools were reported as stolen from vehicles in the UK in the six months to April 2021.

There is currently no legal requirement for manufacturers to fit immobilisers or add forensic marking to the machinery and equipment which would be covered by the bill. Some manufacturers and owners do fit security features of their own volition, however. In addition, both the police and industry stakeholders have published advice to help reduce the risk of having tools and equipment stolen. There are also initiatives and apps aimed at improving the record keeping of equipment ownership and helping police to trace ownership in cases of theft.

The bill was sponsored in the House of Commons by Greg Smith (Conservative MP for Buckingham). It passed its Commons stages unamended and received cross-party support, including from the government, with the Home Office preparing the bill’s explanatory notes. During public bill committee, the government also announced that it was planning to extend the bill’s provisions following concerns raised by various members about other types of tool or equipment theft.  

The bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 6 March 2023 and is sponsored by Lord Blencathra (Conservative). The bill’s second reading in the Lords is scheduled to take place on 19 May 2023.

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