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SMEs (Government Procurement)

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2014

4. What recent steps he has taken to address barriers to small and medium-sized enterprises participating in Government procurement. (906076)

Central Government spend with SMEs increased from £3 billion in 2009-10 to £4.5 billion in 2012-13. They benefited from a further £4 billion in indirect spend through the supply chain, so we are on track to deliver our ambition that 25% of Government’s direct and indirect spend should be with SMEs. In addition, we are implementing further changes to procurement rules that will benefit small businesses.

The majority of local authorities are still not using the Government’s Contracts Finder, resulting in local SMEs losing out on opportunities. What are Ministers doing to ensure that more local authorities submit their procurement opportunities to the website?

I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to the fact that a new and greatly improved version of Contracts Finder will be launched early in the new year. It is a massive opportunity for local authorities to procure better and cheaper, but also to be able to support local businesses. There are now more than 1,000 suppliers on our G-Cloud framework, 87% of which are SMEs, a number of them based in Bolton. They are all now able to provide services directly to public sector purchasers, which helps growth and jobs as well as providing better value for the taxpayer.

What is being done to encourage innovative SMEs to get in on public procurement, and will the Minister update the House on the effectiveness of the mystery shopper tool?

We have enabled suppliers who suspect that a procurement is being done in the old-fashioned way that we inherited to raise it directly with my officials in the Cabinet Office, who can then intervene with the public sector procurer-commissioner to ensure that it is done in the modern way, which does not exclude small businesses from supplying to government in the way that was routinely the case in the past. We have made a huge amount of progress, but we still have a long way to go.