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Government Contracts

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2011

9. How small and medium-sized enterprises in Calder Valley constituency can bid for central Government information and communications technology and facilities management contracts. (86428)

It is absolutely vital that small and medium-sized enterprises should be able to bid for ICT and other contracts, and that is why the Minister for the Cabinet Office said a moment or two ago that we have set an ambition for 25% of contracts to go to SMEs. We have also simplified the contracting process, making it easier for SMEs to find out what the Government seek to purchase, and I recommend that the enterprises in my hon. Friend’s constituency look at the Contracts Finder website, which I have been on myself, It is an absolutely admirable one-stop shop for finding out about Government contracts.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I am not a cynical kind of guy, but I wonder whether he can give the House some examples of how the Government are helping SMEs by awarding them contracts.

Yes, I can, and I refer again to something that my right hon. Friend was saying. Recently, the Government’s very large domestic travel contract was let—the domestic side alone amounts to £1.1 billion a year of travel—and one might have expected it to go to a very large firm, but, because of the way in which my right hon. Friend structured it, it went to Redfern Travel, a company with 33 employees. It is a small or, at any rate and by anyone’s definition, only a medium-scale enterprise, and it was able to win the contract. The managing director said:

“The award of this contract…clearly demonstrates that…any SME can not only bid for major Government contracts, but also meet the challenging requirements”,

so I think that that is a very good test case.

Order. It is normally a great pleasure to hear from the hon. Lady, but the Wirral is a little distance away from Calder Valley, to which this question exclusively relates. We will save her up for another occasion.