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Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill

Volume 831: debated on Friday 14 July 2023

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, on the assumption that your Lordships pass this Bill today, it will not go back to the Commons but straight to His Majesty the King for Royal Assent. I shall get the credit for taking it through this House, but I was inconsequential in getting this Bill on the statute book. The real credit goes to my honourable friend Greg Smith MP, whose brainchild it was. He was a London councillor with a deep interest in cutting crime, and he introduced a 10-minute rule Bill on this subject in 2021. Then the real work began, as he had detailed discussions with the police, the NFU, the Home Office, the Countryside Alliance, the CLA and the Construction Equipment Association, all of which played a part in the Bill before us today. I particularly acknowledge the contributions of Superintendent Andy Huddleston of Northumberland Police and the national rural crime unit lead; Police Sergeant Paul Fagg, of the Metropolitan Police and the National Business Crime Centre; and Detective Sergeant Chris Piggott.

As your Lordships well know, no new law in crime gets through unless the Home Office is on side, and it was. I thank Anna Dawson, Anna Weeden and Sarah Brade, all from the neighbourhood crime unit.

I thank NFU Mutual, which was key in drafting the legislation, and David Exwood, the vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union. I also thank David Bean of the Countryside Alliance and the Country Land and Business Association, and Suneeta Johal, chief executive of the Construction Equipment Association. Finally, and not least, I thank Mr Ian Kelly, the parliamentary assistant to Greg Smith MP.

When the regulations to implement this Bill come into effect, all the people I have mentioned will be able to take credit when theft of rural equipment, and probably construction and other equipment, is drastically cut. The fitting of immobilisers is long overdue. Those manufacturers which have not fitted them in the past had better get with the programme, as the days of selling expensive machinery with Mickey Mouse locks will soon be over. If something is stolen, the forensic marking system will enable it to be returned to the rightful owner. This and immobilisers should make it not worth the while of criminal gangs to steal the huge number of ATVs and equipment that they are currently stealing.

As I said at Parliamentary Questions on Tuesday, I look forward to my noble friend the Minister and the Government bringing in the implementation regulations as soon as possible after the consultation period has ended. I thank the Government and all political parties in both Houses, who have given this Bill their full-hearted support. I look forward to it passing.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has given fulsome thanks to all the people involved in the passage of this Bill. He has played a prominent role in it. As he summed up, it is about stopping manufacturers having Mickey Mouse locks on their equipment. I certainly know from my own experience that the newer locks on equipment—whether construction or general rural equipment—are far more sophisticated, as they involve satellite links and all sorts of other technology. This means they are really difficult to break. Nevertheless, eternal vigilance is needed on this front because the people who seek to steal such equipment will be moving their technology forward as well. This Bill is a welcome step in the right direction. I congratulate the noble Lord on seeing it through this House.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Blencathra for taking this Private Member’s Bill through the House—his efforts were far from inconsequential. I welcome the support the Bill has received in this House and in the other place, and join my noble friend in paying tribute to Greg Smith MP.

The Bill has received cross-party support from the outset, and the Government have wholeheartedly supported it. The Government are determined to make our cities, towns, villages and rural areas safer. As we have heard during debates on this Bill, thefts of agricultural machinery, and in particular all-terrain vehicles, are of great concern. The Government recognise the significant impact these thefts have on our rural communities and businesses, and it is essential we ensure that they are adequately protected. These thefts are preventable: fitting immobilisers and forensic markings as standard is inexpensive and the tools to do so are readily available. The Government expect manufacturers to play their part in protecting items from theft, which is why the Government are taking action by supporting this Bill. The Bill is a great example of government, law enforcement and industry working together to protect hard-working people from theft.

As my noble friend noted, the Bill includes a power for the Secretary of State to extend its provisions to other types of machinery via secondary legislation. During the Commons stages the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire committed to considering the extension of the provisions to other equipment designed or adapted primarily for use in agricultural or commercial activities and tradespeople’s tools. Minister Philp recognised that the regulations would require careful consideration to ensure that the technical detail is correct. To that end, the Home Office has undertaken a call for evidence, seeking views on these detailed matters. The call for evidence closed yesterday, and the responses will be carefully considered before secondary legislation is laid before both Houses and debated in due course.

I reiterate my thanks to my noble friend Lord Blencathra, and echo his thanks to the National Farmers’ Union and to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for construction and agricultural machinery theft, Superintendent Andy Huddleston, for his work in developing the measures in this Bill. I also echo my noble friend’s praise for the police sergeant and detective sergeant he mentioned. I hope to see the Bill receive Royal Assent, as I believe it can have a significant impact on these thefts. The Government are in full support of it.

Bill passed.