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Government Procurement Policy

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the effectiveness of Government procurement policy. (900327)

Our two Departments are working closely together on matters of procurement policy on a continuing basis, as demonstrated by the provisions being made in the Procurement Bill for defence contracts. I have had regular conversations with my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement during the drafting of the Bill.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Last year, it was announced that a competition would take place to replace the electronic countermeasures. Four companies made bids, including two from my constituency, one of which already supplies that equipment. Three were sifted out on the ground that their answers on the supply chain question were not sufficient, even though the three have very strong supply chain records and gave honest answers to the questions. I believe that that is an unfair and potentially dangerous decision. Will my right hon. Friend look into it, please?

I have had assurances from the Foreign Office that it carefully evaluated the bids in line with its procurement process, and that the answers and documentation supplied provided limited assurance that either supplier could deliver electronic countermeasure systems within the procurement timeframe required. However, I commend my hon. Friend for standing up for his constituents and seeking redress of grievance, which is what this House exists for, and I will question the Foreign Office further to give him further reassurance that the process was carried out fairly and his constituents were not disadvantaged.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I wish you a very happy birthday tomorrow?

The Procurement Bill is important business. The Opposition are concerned that the Government showed little understanding of spending taxpayers’ money efficiently and effectively by irresponsibly wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money during the pandemic. The Procurement Bill is a huge opportunity to ensure that every pound of taxpayers’ money spent takes account of social value—true value for money—to distribute growth, meet environmental targets and develop social wellbeing, but it does not mention social value once. Does the Minister agree that including in the Bill an explicit commitment to deliver social value will help to restore public trust in Government spending, after the failures of the pandemic?

How remiss of me not to wish you many happy returns for tomorrow, Mr Speaker. I expect that Chorley will be en fête over the weekend and that what it was doing last weekend was merely a warm-up for the main event.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) for bringing up the Procurement Bill, which has now started its passage in the other House. What is of fundamental and overwhelming importance—I think we agree on this—is value for money, and that is front and centre of the Bill. The other bits around procurement may be good to do, but if we do not achieve value for money, taxpayers’ money will not be well spent.

I go back to the procurement of PPE two years ago. Had we followed the normal procurement rules, it would have taken three to six months before we ordered a single extra glove. That cannot have been the right thing to do when there was an emergency. I am glad to say that the Bill provides better emergency procurement procedures.