We take an updated look at the progress of the new Procurement Bill (Bill 249 2022/23), through Parliament, and the anticipated bold changes for implementation into UK law expected to come into force during the first half of 2024.
The Bill progressed from the House of Lords in late 2022 to the House of Commons where it has had two readings. The Bill was last amended by the Public Bill Committee on 27 February 2023.
The Bill remains in the ‘report stage’ in the House of Commons before its third and final reading. The last step through Parliament sees final consideration of amendments followed by Royal Assent, widely expected this Spring. Final implementation (effective date) into UK law is expected to be early to mid-2024.
Aims of the Bill
The Government sees a reform of the UK’s EU law-based procurement rules as an opportunity to better tailor the procurement framework to the country’s needs. It believes reform will make procurement simpler, quicker, more transparent and less bureaucratic.
Procurement Bill 2023
Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Bill repeals all current EU procurement regulations and introduces new procedures for government departments and the wider public sector in relation to awarding contracts.
A change of approach
The Bill introduces a new supplier regime based on the principles of non-discrimination, fair treatment, value for money, maximising public benefit, transparency, and integrity. The core objective remains as achieving value for money.
The Bill also requires public sector buyers to take account of ‘national strategic priorities’ contained within the National Procurement Policy Statement (NPPS). The NPPS requests that public authorities consider wider public benefits – creating local jobs, climate change, and diversity of suppliers.
Old regime v new regime
The old regime transposes EU Directives into UK law across four sets of regulations:
- Public Contracts Regulations 2015
- Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016
- Concession Contracts Regulations 2016
- Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011.
The new regime consists of a single regulatory framework covering public contracts, utilities contracts, concession contracts and defence/ security contracts.
- Supplier performance: A ‘debarment register’ will list suppliers who have previously underperformed.
- Levelling-up: There will be a greater impetus to keep public money in the UK.
- Simplification: The new regime introduces simple language, and sees a departure from previous legalese.
- Direct awards: These are available only when there is a ‘threat to life’.
- Automatic suspension: The new regime introduces additional clarity and duty required from the aggrieved party.