The proposed new Procurement Bill passed its second reading without division in the House of Commons yesterday, with the Government proposing the new bill will make it easier for small businesses to win more of the £300billion of goods, services and works that the government buys each year.
The Government first laid out its reform proposals in a green paper on transforming public procurement in December 2020. A public consultation ran until March 2021. In December 2021, the Government published its response to the consultation.
A Procurement Bill was announced in the Queen’s speech of May 2022 and soon introduced in the House of Lords. The Bill completed the Lords stages on 13 December 2022 and entered the House of Commons on the following day. It will now move to committee stage.
The Bill proposes simpler rules to help the government procure in emergency situations, such as during health pandemics, ensuring that contracting authorities can act quickly and transparently to buy vital goods.
The simpler rules propose to give the Government the ability to exclude suppliers who may have previously underperformed on government work. They will also help exclude suppliers, both in the UK and overseas who are involved in modern slavery.
The Bill also proposes that value for money remains paramount during contracting, whilst encouraging buyers to take into account other relevant wider social and environmental considerations the supplier may bring. This is a shift from the Government's late 2020 levelling-up agenda, where social value was given greater weighting.
The new rules propose to be of particular benefit to SMEs with the following changes:
- Greater visibility of upcoming work, giving SMEs more time to prepare to bid.
- A central platform showing future work in each area.
- One single website registration.
- Reduction of insurance costs before a supplier has bid for a contract
- A Competitive Flexible procedure, allowing contractors to design more innovation into the process.
- Prompt payments, with businesses receiving payment within 30 days
There was some opposition to parts of the bill in the House of Lords and in the Commons, continued opposition to parts of the bill from Labour, around the existence of loopholes that caused issues for the Government through Covid and beyond
With the bill now moving to the Committee stage, there is a call-out for evidence to interested parties. More information on the call-out is available here. The Procurement Bill factsheet is here, and a Cabinet Office document here, outlining the benefits of the changes for prospective suppliers.
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