The Bill represents a radical change to the UK procurement laws which promises consolidation of the current public procurement framework, greater flexibility in the procurement process and award criteria and increased transparency.
The Bill regime builds on a range of familiar procurement principles of non-discrimination and fair treatment and sets out a mix of old and new procurement objectives - value for money, maximising public benefit, transparency and integrity. The requirement for public sector authorities to have regard to the National Procurement Policy Statement which sets out the government's national priority outcomes for procurement is included in the legislation.
The Bill, which covers the proposed rules governing the procurement of public sector, utilities, concessions and defence and security contracts has been consolidated into 113 pages, which is no mean feat, and less than the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 on its own. It does not cover healthcare services which will be subject to a separate and lighter touch procurement regime under the Health and Care Act 2022.
What is immediately noticeable from the Bill is the change of language. Economic operators are replaced with suppliers and contracts between public sector entities are referred to as "vertical arrangements".
Whilst detailed explanatory notes have been published alongside the Bill explaining what each part will mean in practice, the Bill will need to be supplemented by regulations which will set out practical information such as the categories of services contract which will be subject to the light touch regime and the information to be published in transparency notices (previously standstill notices).
The Bill will now make its way through Parliament and will be subject to a minimum transitional period of six months to allow contracting authorities to familiarise themselves with the new procurement regime and put policies and procedures in place to implement the rules. When we asked attendees at our recent procurement webinar when they thought the new procurement regime was likely to come into effect, the overwhelming majority voted for October 2023!
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