We are ensuring that SMEs are awarded public procurement contracts. Last year, we spent £14.2 billion with SMEs, nearly £2 billion more than the previous year. We have gone further to help to ease the procurement process by introducing a range of measures to tackle the barriers faced by SMEs, such as simplifying pre-qualification questionnaires. We now have the opportunity to make procurement even simpler for SMEs following the end of the transition period.
An SME in my constituency has recently redeployed to the manufacture of PPE equipment in response to the covid-19 pandemic, but it is finding it very hard to secure public contracts and, indeed, is in competition with international suppliers who actually cost more. What can be done to support SMEs who have redeployed to meet the national effort as we tackle coronavirus?
We have received an extraordinary response from people offering to supply PPE and UK manufacturers wanting to make equipment from scratch, including the firm my hon. Friend mentions, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who has come forward. As a result, we have now contracted over 3 billion items of PPE through UK-based manufacturers alone. Although further personal protective equipment offers are not needed at the moment, we continue to invite other forms of support from industry.