Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 16th March 2023.
What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to ensure suppliers follow the UK’s sanctions regimes for public procurement.
The UK and its international partners stand shoulder to shoulder in implementing sanctions against malignant actors on the international stage. This includes the most severe sanctions ever against Russia, which represents over £18 billion in assets frozen and reported to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation. Contracting authorities must comply with our sanctions, which have legal force.
On the question of procurement more widely, the British Chamber of Commerce found that, in 2021, small and medium-sized enterprises were receiving a relatively small amount of direct Government procurement money compared with five years ago. Can the Minister explain why SMEs are being increasingly sidelined from access to public procurement under his Government?
Far from sidelining SMEs, the Government are absolutely focused on ensuring that they get a fairer share of the Government procurement pie. I am delighted that the Procurement Bill will put an obligation on contracting authorities to have regard to what their tenders will do for SMEs. That will ensure that, right at the early stages of the process, as well as displaying a long pipeline notice, contracting authorities think through how they can make certain that those tenders are best adaptable to SMEs and their requirements.
In November, it was revealed in The Guardian that the company Infosys was still operating in Russia, eight months after it announced that it would withdraw. Just a month later, that company was awarded a lucrative contract worth £1.7 million of taxpayers’ money. Was the Minister aware of that when that contract was awarded, and do the Government believe that public money should be going to those who are operating in Russia?
We set out in policy procurement note 01/22 our approach to public procurement and links with Russia. That PPN speaks for itself, and I am sure the hon. Lady is familiar with it. It requires contracting authorities to check from whom they are receiving goods and services. It is primarily aimed at those who are Russia or Belarus-based, or who have significant control. I do not know the particulars of the circumstances that she mentions, but the Government’s approach through PPN 01/22 is very clear.