Public procurement law in England and Wales is one step closer to reform. The procurement bill, which was first introduced in the UK parliament in May 2022, will replace existing European Union-based procurement regulation in England and Wales and is intended to make public procurement simpler, faster, more transparent, and less bureaucratic.
The bill has now completed the Commons Committee stage. During its consideration, the Commons rejected all of the Lords’ amendments to the bill. The government introduced several amendments to the bill, including around clarifying the debarment procedure and addressing abnormally low tenders, which were adopted. On 13 June 2023, the procurement bill entered the Commons report and third reading stages before returning to the House of Lords for the consideration of amendments.
In an update on 8 June 2023, the Cabinet Office confirmed that implementation of the bill is now anticipated in October 2024, following the promised six-month preparation period following royal assent. On 19 June 2023, the Cabinet Office launched a public consultation on the regulations that would be enacted under the bill should it become law. The consultation will be conducted in the two phases discussed below.
Phase 1, which opened on 19 June 2023 and will close on 28 July 2023, addresses areas of the bill that would “require lists, calculations or further definitions”. These areas include:
- The scope of “light touch regime” contracts and “reservable light touch services”
- “Vertical” and “Horizontal” activities calculations (relevant to the replacement of the Teckal and Hamburg exemptions)
- Utilities “intragroup turnover” calculations
- Utility “turnover and supply” tests
- Intra-UK procurement
- Definitions of “central government authority” and “works” for thresholds
- Disapplication of Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988
- Disapplication regarding NHS procurement
Phase 2, beginning in July 2023, will address transparency obligations, including information to be included in the many new notices that contracting authorities would be obligated to publish under the bill, as well as transitional arrangements for procurements that would be in progress at the time of implementation.
The consultation will be conducted online via the gov.uk website.
Any organisation which competes for public contracts is likely to be affected by the bill if it becomes law.
Such organisations should monitor the bill’s progress through Parliament and may wish to engage in the public consultation on key practical aspects of the new regime.