15 August 2022

The Procurement Bill proposes major reforms to the rules governing public sector buying, with a view to making a simpler and more transparent system. The Bill is not set in stone - it is currently being debated in the House of Lords and will then be debated in the House of Commons.

A key point in the debate so far has related to the proposed incorporation of specific objectives which authorities would have to have regard to when carrying out procurement processes. This is a different approach to the existing Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which establish certain principles of procurements (i.e. treating economic operators equally and without discrimination; acting in a transparent and proportionate manner).

The Bill instead proposes to replace those principles and require authorities to have regard to the following objectives:

a) delivering value for money;

b) maximising public benefit;

c) sharing information to allow suppliers and others to understand the authority’s procurement policies and decisions;

d) acting, and being seen to act, with integrity.

The objectives have been the subject of intense scrutiny by the House of Lords. Various amendments have been put forward, both to delete certain objectives (such as the requirement to act with integrity) and to add to those currently proposed, for example:

1. improving economic, social environmental and cultural well-being;

2. aligning with, or contributing towards meeting, obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008 and Environment Act 2021;

3. ensuring the safe, sustainable, and ethical use of automated or algorithmic decision-making systems and the responsible and ethical use of data.

The final position reached on objectives will be crucial in shaping the future procurement landscape and we will be watching with interest how the position evolves over the next few months. 

What’s next?

The Bill is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords – amendments will be debated an updated version of the Bill circulated with agreed amendments. It will then be subject to a further round of debate within the House of Lords. The Bill will then move to the House of Commons for further debate and amendments. The final stage, Royal Asset, when the Bill turns into an Act, is not expected before mid-2023. There will then be a six month transition period before the Act ‘goes live’.

What is clear from current debates is that whilst there is still a great amount of detail that is likely to change, and further accompanying detail to be published, there is a clear direction of travel and the private and public sector can start to make preparations now.

If you are interested in hearing more on the Bill’s aims and key measures, please take a look at the recent expert briefing (co-hosted with the Institute for Government) featuring a panel of experts from the Cabinet Office, DWP and Burges Salmon.

If you would like to discuss the Bill further, its practical impact and what you can do to prepare, please contact Laura Wisdom or your usual Burges Salmon contact.

Key contact

John Houlden

John Houlden Partner

  • Head of Public Sector
  • Head of Procurement and Subsidy Control
  • Projects

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