Manufacturers must play their part in protecting items from theft, a Home Office minister has said as he noted security devices on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), such as quad bikes, had fallen behind other advances.

Speaking in Parliament, Lord Sharpe of Epsom stressed prevention was the most effective way to crack down on criminals snatching the transport, which is vital to the work of farmers.

The Tory frontbencher made his comments as he backed the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill, following its introduction in the House of Lords.

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The backbench legislation, which has already gone through the Commons, aims to prevent the theft of ATVs by requiring immobilisers and forensic marking to be fitted as standard on new machines.

It would also allow ministers to extend the legislation to other equipment designed for use in agricultural or commercial settings, such as construction.

An estimated 900 to 1,200 quad bikes and ATVs are stolen in England and Wales each year.

Costing up to £20,000 each the value of thefts reported to NFU Mutual in 2021 was more than £2m.

Lord Sharpe told peers: “The theft of agricultural machinery and in particular all-terrain vehicles is of great concern.

“The Government recognises the significant impact these thefts have on individuals and businesses and understand the distress and disruption when property is stolen.

“The theft of an agricultural vehicle from a farmer can cause severe disruption to essential cultivation work, risk to animal welfare and put livelihoods on the line.

“It is therefore essential to ensure they are adequately protected.”

He added: “The Government expects manufacturers to play their part in protecting items from theft.

“Despite significant technological advances made across the ATV market the inclusion of basic security features on machines has been much slower.

“So fitting immobilisers and forensic markings as standards is inexpensive and readily available.

“The cost of fitting an immobiliser and forensically marking a machine is estimated to be under £200.

“The cost is far outweighed by the benefit of reducing disruption caused by the theft.

“Increased policing is not the only answer.

“Prevention is by far the most effective means of reducing these thefts and this Bill proposes simple action to achieve that.”

Lord Sharpe added: “The Government does expect to see a real decrease in the theft of ATVs as a result of the measures in this Bill.”

Conservative former Home Office minister Lord Blencathra, who is taking draft legislation through the upper chamber, said: “This Bill will make it harder to steal equipment in the first place, but equally importantly make it harder to resell stolen equipment.”

He told the Lords: “Let the message go out to a minority of manufacturers that their sales strategy of selling equipment which can be easily stolen so they can sell replacements over and over again are coming to an end.”

Lord Blencathra added: “Preventing crime is a duty of all of us and can’t just be left to the police.

“Where industry is not pulling its weight voluntarily by fitting immobilisers and doing forensic marking then legislation is unfortunately necessary.”

Tory peer Lord Wasserman, a former policing adviser to the then prime minister David Cameron, said: “I strongly believe that the provisions of this Bill would make the work of our police forces very much easier and very much more effective and for that reason would make the lives of those who live and work in our rural communities very significantly safer.

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“Because of the close links between criminals who operate in rural areas and those who operate in major cities, the effects of this Bill will extend far beyond rural communities.

“In short, this Bill will make all of us more safer.”

Backing the Bill, Liberal Democrat Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville said: “Theft of ATVs and other farming equipment happens on a fairly regular basis and can have a devastating financial effect on the small farms often found in rural areas.

“Theft of any sort affects the victims.

“If that theft affects the way in which the victim carries out their activities that provide their livelihood this raises the crime much higher up the scale.

“This Bill whilst not being a panacea for all rural crimes would certainly help towards addressing some of the issues farmers face.”

Also giving her support, Labour frontbencher Baroness Twycross said: “It presents a much-needed opportunity to reduce rural crime.”

The Bill received an unopposed second reading and now goes forward for further scrutiny by peers.