The second reading of the Procurement Bill took place in the House of Lords yesterday, a summary of the key points we feel important to note is provided, as well as a link to the full minutes for those interested.

The Good

  • It was mentioned many times how this Bill provides us with huge opportunities to remove the red tape imposed on us by the previous EU regulations. The Bill removes duplication and simplifies procurement, and it is welcomed by practitioners and suppliers alike.

  • There was lots of support for the procurement profession, and the need for it to be given a higher profile.   Lord Lansley said: “Right across government, we need chief procurement officers to be seen as often as important as chief financial officers in getting the quality of service and value right”.

The Not So Good

  • The PPE Scandal shone a light on procurement – it is unclear how these regs (given the potential exclusion options) would prevent that recurring– this needs tightening up.  Baroness Brinton said: “Emergency should not mean secret, not rule-bound and not checked”.  

  • Part 2 does not detail the principles of procurement (public good, VFM, transparency etc.) – it needs to, in order to be clear and to embed the right culture.   Additionally, the relative importance of each of the principles should be made clearer to ensure the overarching objectives of the legislation are clear.

  • The Environment, Social Value, Climate etc. whilst mentioned, are not detailed enough.  The Bill relies on the NPPS which can be amended at any time.  These elements must be written in clearly to ensure change is achieved and Responsible/Sustainable procurement can be taken seriously. Lord Baroness Young of Old Stone said: “We in the world are currently living it up beyond our means and driving madly towards a cliff edge. We need action to meet the Government’s urgent environment and climate change targets as an objective of public procurement in the Bill and we need it to be a requirement, not simply a consideration”.

  • Being able to “Buy British” but ensuring non-discrimination for those in WTO members is contradictory.  Whilst the proposals allow to buy British below threshold - further discussion is required on this point. 

  • The aim for a single digital platform is welcomed, however it is felt that both the cost, and time to implement have been underestimated.

  • There was concern about implementation of the new regs, the time and resource required to train all public buyers as well as suppliers and there is a want for how this will be done effectively to be clarified (not in the Bill – separately).

  • Definition of “Public Benefit” needs to be provided, as does “Fair Treatment”.

  • It is envisaged that the CPV codes will be used to decide which contracts can be light touch – it was felt that this may not be appropriate and needs consideration.

  • It was highlighted that innovation can be achieved even more by procurement than the grant led systems we often focus on – this needs to be highlighted and further enabled through the Bill.

  • England, Wales and NI are “in” – Scotland have yet to sign up, though they are being encouraged to do so.  This may cause issues with other, linked legislation

The full Hansard, the official report of all Parliamentary debates, for anyone interested is here.

The next stage is the committee stage, where the Lords will undertake their detailed examination. We will keep you updated.