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Public Bodies: Buying British

Volume 672: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2020

7. What steps his Department is taking to encourage public bodies in Wales to buy British goods, products and services. (900902)

Apologies, Mr Speaker, for the novice performance from the Front Bench.

Now is an excellent opportunity for public bodies, Departments such as the Ministry of Defence and the NHS to buy British goods, products and services. Projects such as the £500 million F-35 repair programme in north Wales and the 2 million tonnes of steel needed for HS2 have the potential to level up regions and strengthen the Union.

In an answer a few minutes ago, the Secretary of State’s ministerial colleague was extolling the importance of the automotive industry to Wales, yet Welsh police forces are buying heavily from France and Germany. Given that we have come out of the EU, should we not be taking the opportunity in that sector and across public procurement to support British jobs and workers?

I can completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and that opportunity is now simpler, given that we have left the EU. Our job here and with the Welsh Government is to make sure that those procurement rules reflect the fantastic products Wales has to offer.

Welsh construction and civil engineering firms frequently complain that EU procurement regulations effectively preclude them from bidding for contracts in Wales. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, when we have completed the transitional process, everything possible will be done to ensure that Welsh firms have the chance to bid for those contracts?

Absolutely. I could not agree with my right hon. Friend more. That is one of the great benefits of leaving the European Union.

If we want to maximise the benefits of HS2 for Wales, which will require about 3 million tonnes of steel and new high-speed trains, will the Secretary of State lobby the Department for Transport to procure Welsh and UK steel and trains from CAF in Newport for the project?

Yes, that will definitely be an objective of the UK Government. As the hon. Lady knows, we take the future of the steel industry in Wales extremely seriously, and I want to ensure that every opportunity it has to contribute to UK infrastructure projects is taken.

Crickhowell, in my constituency, was badly affected by last week’s floods, and we have a lot of small businesses struggling to get back on their feet. Along with public bodies, will the Secretary of State join me in urging all consumers to buy British and buy local?

I know that my hon. Friend’s constituency was particularly hard hit by recent weather events, and her recognition of that is to be commended. I also completely agree that everything we need to do as a UK Government, in collaboration with our colleagues in Cardiff—I keep making this point—will deliver the sort of result that she is seeking.

We know that for every pound spent with a small or medium-sized enterprise 63p is re-spent in the local area, as opposed to some 40p for every pound spent with a larger chain or business. What steps will the Government take to enable public bodies in Wales to buy more local goods, products and services?

Part of the problem has been caused by the restrictions imposed on us by our relationship with Europe. The change in those terms will free up the opportunity for the UK and Welsh Governments to ensure that procurement rules are changed as well, and to unpick the problems to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.