New procurement rules have today become law, following the Royal Assent of the Procurement Act and constitutes one of the largest shake ups to procurement rules in this country’s history.
The Act establishes a new public procurement regime following the UK’s exit from the EU, and helps deliver the Prime Minister’s promise to grow the economy by creating a simpler and more transparent system that delivers better value for money, reducing costs for business and the public sector.
The new regime will deliver simpler, more effective public sector procurement, and help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) secure a greater share of approximately £300bn of expenditure per year.
The new rules will protect against national security risks in public contracts.
Significant new powers will enable high-risk suppliers to be put on a public debarment list and be prevented from bidding for some categories of goods or services, such as areas related to defence and national security, while allowing them to continue to bid for contracts in non-sensitive areas.
Minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin said:
‘We have taken the long-term decisions that will increase our powers to protect our security in our supply chains and procurement.
‘This has included radical steps such as creating a National Security Unit for Procurement and giving Ministers the power to prevent suppliers from bidding for certain products where there is a risk to national security it will deliver lasting change which protects the UK for generations to come.
‘The Act places a requirement on contracting authorities to assess the particular barriers facing SMEs throughout the entire procurement lifecycle, and to consider what can be done to overcome them.’
The Act will streamline the way that companies bid for public contracts, while also giving procurers more room for negotiating prices and innovative solutions with these companies.
These reforms will deliver better value for money, slash red tape, drive innovation and make it easier for suppliers of all sizes to do business with the public sector.
It will also be possible to exclude suppliers from bidding for contracts, not only if they’ve performed badly on other contracts in the past, but also based on modern slavery or professional misconduct grounds.
The Act introduces a new duty for Ministers to proactively consider suppliers for potential debarment investigations.
To achieve this, the Government will introduce a new National Security Unit for Procurement. This unit will better protect people across the country by investigating suppliers who may pose a risk to national security and assess whether companies should be barred from public procurements.
In addition, the Government is committing to publish a timeline for the removal of surveillance equipment produced by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law from central government sensitive sites. Government will also produce an annual written report to Parliament detailing progress on this commitment.
The Act draws on newfound Brexit freedoms to create a more transparent procurement system – with clearer and faster competition processes in emergency situations, such as during health pandemics, ensuring that contracting authorities can act quickly and transparently to buy vital goods.
Contracting authorities will also need to take account of the national strategic priorities set out in the National Procurement Policy Statement. This could include matters such as job creation, enhancing supplier resilience and fostering innovation.
The changes are expected to come into force once secondary legislation is laid and after a six-month implementation period.
The Cabinet Office will be providing all public sector contracting authorities with access to a comprehensive, centrally-funded learning and development package and guidance materials to help them prepare.