Amendment 3

Part of Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 6:00 pm, 22nd July 2019

My Lords, I shall speak to the two amendment in my name and that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. Noble Lords will be aware that an amendment was tabled by Chris Matheson on Report in the other place imposing a duty on the sponsor body to require the delivery authority, when allocating contracts for construction and related work, to have regard to the company’s policies on corporate social responsibility, including those relating to the blacklisting of employees or potential employees from employment. This was opposed by the Government due to existing legislation on blacklisting, and because we considered it more appropriate for these matters to form part of the programme delivery agreement between the sponsor body and delivery authority. The amendment was passed but had defects—namely, that policies on blacklisting are employment policies, not, strictly speaking, matters of corporate social responsibility. We are therefore tabling this amendment in order for the spirit of the original amendment to remain in the Bill while ensuring that it is appropriately drafted.

This amendment will ensure that there is a duty on the sponsor body to require the delivery authority, when considering the award of a contract in respect of the carrying out of the parliamentary building works, to have regard to the prospective contractor’s policy relating to corporate social responsibility and its policies and procedures relating to employment, including in relation to the blacklisting of employees. We have worked with colleagues in the other place on this amendment and they are content with this change of wording.

The second amendment in my name relates to the reporting of contracts and fulfils a government commitment made in the other place. On Report in the Commons, MPs debated an amendment requiring the sponsor body,

“to undertake, and publish, an annual audit of the companies that have been awarded contracts for the Parliamentary building works, with a view to establishing their size and geographical location”,

which was tabled by Meg Hillier. It was clear that such an amendment commanded support on all sides, and the Government agreed to bring an amendment on the reporting of the awarding of contracts to your Lordships’ House. Schedule 1 of the Bill already requires that the sponsor body must prepare and publish a report once a year on the carrying out and progress of the parliamentary building works. The amendment requires that that report includes information about persons to whom contracts for carrying out the works have been awarded, particularly their size and the areas in which they operate. We believe that the amendment fulfils the spirit of the amendment debated in the other place while being appropriately drafted and included at the proper place in the Bill. Again, in proposing this amendment we have worked with colleagues in the other place who are supportive of the wording. I hope noble Lords will support both amendments in my name.

Finally, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for tabling his amendment on ensuring that R&R provides opportunities for businesses across the UK. The Government have always sought to encourage the shadow sponsor body to give thought to how the delivery authority will engage with SMEs and businesses across the UK in restoring the Palace of Westminster. That is already happening on other projects on the parliamentary estate, such as the work on the restoration of Elizabeth Tower. The shadow sponsor body is committed to creating economic opportunities across the UK, and, once it is established in statute, we expect to continue this commitment. Once the R&R programme is under way, parliamentary committees will no doubt want to scrutinise the work of the sponsor body and the delivery authority, including what opportunities have been created across the regions.

Nevertheless, an amendment tabled by Neil Gray was passed on Report in the other place requiring the sponsor body, in exercising its functions, to have regard to the need to ensure that economic benefits of the parliamentary building works are delivered across the nations and regions of the UK in terms of contracts for works, and in any other way that the sponsor body considers appropriate. This is a parliamentary project, and we accepted the will of the other place to include an amendment in the Bill on that principle. However, we identified some concerns with the amendment relating to procurement law. In particular, when developing its procurement strategy and assessing bids, it would not be lawful for the delivery authority to factor in the geographical location of companies, which could expose it to legal challenge. The Government therefore committed to support the drafting and tabling of this alternative amendment, which addresses those concerns.

This amendment places in the Bill the provision that the sponsor body, in exercising its functions, must have regard to the need to ensure that opportunities to secure economic and other benefits of the parliamentary building works are available in all areas of the UK. We believe that the amendment retains the spirit of the amendment passed in the other place while adhering to public procurement law, so I hope noble Lords will support it. I beg to move.