Today (9 January 2023), the Procurement Bill was introduced to the House of Commons. Procurement amounts for around £300bn of Government spending and the Bill is an opportunity to shape our procurement system now that we have left the European Union.
In its current form, the Government’s Procurement Bill is unambitious and fails to take advantage of post-Brexit opportunities to create a procurement regime which promotes local British business, clamps down on the obscene waste of recent years, and outlaws VIP lanes.
It’s a missed opportunity to create a fairer system by ingraining honesty and openness into the heart of public spending. Instead, it hands Ministers more, not less power over direct awards of contracts and taxpayers’ money. It also makes scant reference to creating social value, which is a consideration that allows money to be given to local British businesses that create jobs, skills and green opportunities in their communities. The Conservatives are failing to learn from their mistakes and are cementing cronyism into law.
Under Labour’s approach, procurement would act as a force for good, creating social value and providing SMEs with the business they need to thrive. We would make social value mandatory in national contract design, enabling money to be given to local British businesses to create jobs, skills and green opportunities in their communities. Labour will use the social and environmental stretch clauses in public contracts to raise standards, mirroring the approach taken in other countries including France and the US.
As well as raising standards nationally and globally, this move will help boost our businesses and create new jobs by making, buying and selling more in Britain. We see Britain’s steel industry, our shipyards, our aerospace, and materials industries as national assets, so we want as much as possible of our equipment designed and built here.