Win for Britain’s farmers as Equipment Theft Bill gains Royal Assent

21 July 2023

Two green tractors driving across a ploughed field.

The Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill has received Royal Assent after months of work between the NFU, NFU Mutual, Home Office, National Rural Crime Unit and other industry organisations.

The Act will give the Home Secretary new powers to make regulations that deter the theft and resale of quads and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), which cost the NFU Mutual £2.2 million in 2021.

Fitting ATVs with immobilisers and forensic markings and ensuring the owners details are registered on a database will help make these essential utility vehicles less attractive for criminals.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “Farmers across the country will be delighted that the government and police now have wider powers to tackle increasing incidents of equipment theft on farm.

“Quads are often one of the main things that attract criminals onto farms which often leads to further thefts. But if these new powers can deter criminals in the first instance, I hope they will drive a reduction in further instances of rural crime.

“This legislation is a big step forward in protecting Britain’s farms and I thank Greg Smith MP, Lord Blencathra and the Home Office for working with us so closely on it.

“We now urge the government to pass secondary legislation to widen the scope of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Act to include other agricultural equipment, especially GPS systems after the stark rise in thefts this year.”

Bob Henderson, NFU Mutual’s Engineering Lead on Rural Crime, said: “We know the role that measures such as forensic marking, registration and immobilisation play in preventing crime and we have a huge opportunity to protect farmers and tradespeople through this legislation.

“The Equipment Theft Bill receiving Royal Assent comes at a time when we are seeing an increase in theft of vital equipment and machinery.”

More information

  1. The key provisions the Act will facilitate are:
    • Immobilisers: These are electronic devices that will only allow the engine to run if the correct key or key fob is present, which will protect the vehicle from 'hot-wiring' as well as deterring thieves.
    • Forensic markings: Markers remain hidden on vehicles but can be identified under UV light, or in some cases contain a unique code that can be read by scanners. This gives the police powerful evidence to link stolen vehicles to their owners.
    • Registration database: This would give further support to the police when they are trying to reunite stolen vehicles with their owners. 
  1. The Act was a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Greg Smith MP and supported by Lord Blencathra in the Lords. It has also been supported by the National Rural Crime Unit, led by Superintendent Andy Huddleston.
  2. NFU Mutual's 2022 Rural Crime Report indicated that the cost of rural crime was over £40m in 2021.