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The Procurement Bill: evolution, not revolution, in the regulation of public procurement

Nick Pimlott
25/10/2022

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United Kingdom

The Procurement Bill (Bill) was introduced into Parliament on 11 May 2022 and is at the time of writing at the Committee Stage in the House of Lords.

It is part of the Government's 'post-Brexit' strategy and aims to reform the current EU-based laws on public procurement of goods and services within the UK.  The objective of the Bill is to modernise and streamline the UK's procurement rules, whilst placing a focus on "value for money, public benefit, transparency and integrity".[1] 

The introduction of the Bill followed a lengthy period of public consultation which commenced with the publication of a Green Paper - Transforming Public Procurement - in December 2020 seeking input from stakeholders on a range of proposals to reform and simplify the EU-based rules.  The Government received 619 responses to the Green Paper from public bodies, suppliers to Government, and from other interested parties such as academics, legal professionals and members of the public.  The Government's response to the consultation was published on 6 December 2021.  Overall, respondents were positive about the proposed changes but the Government nevertheless shifted its position in a number of areas in the light of comments received during the consultation. 

The Bill represents evolution, not revolution, in the way that public procurement will be regulated in the UK.  The scope of the legislation and many of the concepts used are similar to those that procurement practitioners will be familiar with from the current EU-based rules.  This is in large part because the Bill seeks to implement the UK's post-Brexit commitments under the Government Procurement Agreement of the WTO (GPA) and other trade agreements entered into by the UK.  The GPA requires signatories to open up their Government procurement markets to suppliers from other signatory states within the scope of mutual commitments given by the parties. 

The system of procurement regulation required by the GPA is both an influence on and has been influenced by the EU procurement rules, which themselves represent the EU's implementation of the GPA on behalf of EU Member States.  Having committed to the GPA, the UK Government's room for manoeuvre, had it wished to depart radically from the EU rules, was therefore limited.  Nevertheless, the GPA is in many ways much less prescriptive than the EU approach, which the Government has sought to take full advantage of in developing its policy for the future regulation of public procurement in the UK.

In a series of articles to be published over the coming weeks, we will examine the key features of the Bill and highlight the main areas in which the public procurement regime will, and will not, change once the Bill is enacted.  Today we are kicking off with a piece on:

  • The scope of the Bill
  • Principles and objectives of procurement under the Bill

Subsequent topics include:

  • Award procedures, award criteria and technical specifications
  • Supplier exclusion and debarment
  • Frameworks and dynamic markets
  • Direct award
  • Transparency and the provision of information
  • Modifying public contracts
  • Procurement challenges
  • Light touch contracts
  • And more…

These articles will be based on the Bill as introduced in the House of Lords in May 2022 together with such Government-tabled amendments that we are aware of at the time of writing.  Further changes may of course be made as the Bill passes through further Parliamentary stages.

 


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-procurement-bill-summary-guide-to-the-provisions/the-procurement-bill-a-summary-guide-to-the-provisions#introduction

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Public and Regulatory