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Public Contracts: Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Volume 732: debated on Thursday 11 May 2023

12. What steps the Government are taking to support small and medium-sized enterprises bidding for public contracts. (904862)

This Government are supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in a variety of ways, from transparently publishing contract pipelines to simplifying bidding procedures. The Procurement Bill, which is making its way through Parliament and will be on Report soon, will create a simpler and more transparent procurement regime that will further open up public procurement to SMEs. The Bill includes a new duty on contracting authorities to have regard to the particular barriers facing SMEs.

I am pleased to hear about the Procurement Bill, because small and medium-sized businesses are fundamental to the economy of Bristol South and for jobs. What steps will the Minister be taking to address gaps in the Procurement Bill to enforce payment deadlines and to make sure that filters down through the supply chain to help small businesses in my constituency?

I am glad to hear the hon. Lady refer to that, because the principles behind the Procurement Bill for SMEs were given to us by SMEs. We want transparency, simplicity and fairness. On that third point, we are keen to see people pay their bills promptly, so that SMEs throughout the supply chain can get their money when they need it.

The Government may offer warm words on SMEs, but small businesses need those opportunities to thrive. Let us look at the evidence to see whether those warm words are backed up. In Brentwood, SMEs missed out on £3 in every £4 of viable suitable Government contracts in 2022. In Hertsmere, they missed out on 79%. In Horsham, SMEs got less than 5% of suitable public money. That amounts to £8.6 million. The Tories may talk about being a party of small businesses, but this Government have had 13 years to help small businesses—why have they not?

I am very pleased that the hon. Lady has been paying attention in the Committee stage of the Procurement Bill, where she has heard that we have done a great deal of work to overhaul the archaic regime that the EU left us with. It is precisely because of that Bill that small businesses will get contract pipelines, a single digital platform, prompt payments and a single regime that reduces bureaucracy and administrative burdens. With transparency, simplicity and fairness, this Government are delivering for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Bob Blackman is not here—he is struck in traffic—but in order for the other two Members to ask their questions, would the Minister answer as though he was here?