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Public Sector Procurement: SMEs

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 14 July 2022

16. What steps his Department is taking to strengthen public sector procurement rules for small and medium-sized enterprises. (901059)

The Procurement Bill will enable simpler, more flexible procurement processes, increase transparency of planned procurements and ensure that 30-day prompt payment terms flow down the supply chain. This will provide small businesses, especially start-ups, with the time and assurance they need to bid for opportunities.

My constituent is a driver who has suffered from cataracts and is required to take yearly eye tests. He would like those tests to be carried out by his local independent optician, but has been advised that a single provider holds an exclusive contract. I raised the matter with Ministers in the Department for Transport, who have told me that the situation arises because the Government are obliged to offer an exclusive contract because of EU procurement rules. Will the Procurement Bill enable smaller, independent businesses to conduct such tests and promote competition?

My hon. Friend raises an important point—that the Government, to achieve best value for money for taxpayers, will ensure that there are overarching contracts that are at the best price available. He then asks whether it will be possible for smaller companies to be part of that. It will be possible and easier for them to be part of the supply chain, but value for money must remain. In the specific case he raises, were Specsavers to carry on being much cheaper than using individual providers, I expect the Department for Transport would—and would be expected to—go down that route. If, on the other hand, competitive prices could be offered by smaller companies, it would be easier under the Procurement Bill for them to get into the process.