My Interventions on the Public Procurement Motion (1)


Sir John Redwood:

Does the Minister think the regulations are duly simplified so that it is feasible for the self-employed and very small businesses to have access to contracts? Is there any provision for breaking down contract sizes so that the self-employed and small businesses have more opportunity?

Alex Burghart:

My right hon. Friend asks a pertinent question—one that was at the forefront of Ministers’ minds when the legislation was drafted and as it made its way through both Houses. A number of provisions in primary legislation are there specifically to increase the chances that small and medium-sized enterprises, which are more likely to be British, get a bigger share of the £300 billion-worth of public procurement. Those provisions include everything from the online procurement system that we are building—which will increase transparency and allow greater notification of pipelines, helping small and medium-sized enterprises to prepare for those procurements—to reduced red tape, which will take the burden off those SMEs and reduce their barriers to entry. We are hopeful that a lot of local businesses in his constituency and in mine will benefit from this landmark piece of post-Brexit legislation.

The contents I was describing would typically include the contact details for the contracting authority, the contract’s subject matter, key timings for the procurement process, and various other basic information about a particular procurement that interested suppliers would need to know. The provisions also cover the practical measures that authorities must follow when publishing those notices, such as publishing on a central digital platform and handling situations in the event that the platform is unavailable.
Beyond transparency, the instrument includes various other necessary provisions to supplement the Act that will be relevant in certain situations. We provide various lists in the schedules so that procurers are able to identify whether certain obligations apply in a particular case, including a list of light-touch services that qualify for simplified rules, and a list of central Government authorities and works that are subject to different thresholds. The regulations disapply the Procurement Act in relation to healthcare services procurements within the scope of the NHS provider selection regime, which has set out the regulatory framework for healthcare services procurement since its introduction in January this year.

The regulations also set out how devolved Scottish contracting authorities are to be regulated by the Act if they choose to use a commercial tool established under the Act or procure jointly with a buyer regulated by the Act. The provisions of the regulations apply to reserved procurement in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and to transferred procurement in Northern Ireland. The Welsh Government have laid similar secondary legislation that will apply in respect of devolved procurement in Wales, and if the devolved body carrying out that procurement mainly operates in Wales, elsewhere.

The Government have consulted carefully with stakeholders throughout all stages of the reform process, and we published our response to the formal public consultation on these regulations on 22 March. That consultation was a great success, evoking a good response from the various representative sectors, and confirmed that the proposed regulations generally worked as intended. Many stakeholders urged that certain matters be clarified and explained in guidance and training, which is a key part of our implementation programme that is being rolled out across the UK. The Government response demonstrates that we have listened to feedback, and confirms a number of areas in which the consultation led to technical and drafting improvements.

Once the instrument has been made, contracting authorities and suppliers will need time in order to fully adapt their systems and processes before go-live. As such, the Government have provided six months’ advance notice of go-live of the new regime before these regulations come into force, which will happen on 28 October this year.

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