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Public Sector Procurement: Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Volume 741: debated on Thursday 23 November 2023

4. What steps his Department is taking to improve access to public sector procurement processes for small and medium-sized businesses. (900251)

The Procurement Act 2023 will deliver simpler, more effective public sector procurement and help small and medium-sized enterprises secure a greater share of approximately £300 billion of expenditure per year. The Act places a requirement on contracting authorities to assess the particular barriers facing SMEs throughout the entire procurement life cycle and to consider what can be done to overcome them.

The renewable energy sector offers great opportunities for SMEs to become involved in the supply chain. Many of them are unaware of the public sector tenders that are out there. What are the Government doing to ensure that SMEs are made more aware of the opportunities available?

I very much encourage my hon. Friend to take this matter up with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, but for my part I understand that anyone bidding for contracts for difference, our main renewable support scheme, must submit supply chain plans, including how many applicants will support SMEs.[Official Report, 10 January 2024, Vol. 743, c. 6MC.] The Department is also consulting on reforms that will give greater revenue support to applicants using more sustainable supply chains, including those that make greater use of SMEs.

I thank the Minister for his response and the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) for raising this matter. Northern Ireland, and particularly my constituency of Strangford, have a great many small and medium-sized businesses that depend greatly on opportunities for Government contracts. What discussions has the Minister had with the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland on a united approach, similar to that referred to by the hon. Member for Cleethorpes? I would love to see that in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear, and will remember from discussions we had as the Procurement Act 2023 was making its way through Parliament, that Northern Ireland will benefit from the new post-EU regime that we have brought in. Unlike our friends in Scotland, who chose to opt out, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been able to shrug off the overly bureaucratic regime that we inherited from the EU and create, alongside small and medium-sized businesses, a brand-new way of doing things. I know that small and medium-sized enterprises in his constituency will ultimately benefit from that.