Social Clauses

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 5th July 2021.

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Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP 2:30 pm, 5th July 2021

T4. Ms P Bradley asked the Minister of Finance, who will know that social clauses have been in place in the Department for Communities for some years, particularly in building homes in the social sector, how he sees those working alongside the social scoring value model that he announced this morning. (AQT 1504/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I see it as an enhancement. In my time at the Department for Regional Development (DRD), we had social clauses for some Roads Service contracts to try to achieve good social outcomes. The problem was that it was intermittent and had no uniform standard process to assess or score social value. The paper that I brought to the Executive and reported to the Assembly today will bring a standardised process to all Departments. There will be a minimum threshold, which will enhance the good work that some Departments have been doing to create social value. It will ensure that those awarding contracts and those bidding for them understand clearly what is required and operate on the same playing field. That will lead not only to better outcomes but to better social outcomes.

Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. As he knows, many of the social clauses cannot be utilised, especially in the construction sector, as they were not written very well and have been around for a long time. Has the Minister had any conversations with the Minister for the Economy about apprenticeships? In today's statement, the Minister mentioned bringing jobs to deprived areas. I can see how the social model could work in those areas.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The discussion on the matter went to the Executive. Part of the change to procurement is that, rather than being a Department of Finance policy that it must try to get other Departments to adopt, it has been brought to the entire Executive and has their stamp of approval and will get a uniform approach from Departments because Ministers are obliged to follow through on it. I have had dialogue with a range of Ministers on all of that, and we want to see an improvement across the board. We want procurement to be used in that fashion.

Where Departments can achieve better social outcomes with the work that they do, by all means, they should. We are setting a minimum standard, and that does not mean that it stops there. Departments can do other things and bring other improvements. We procure about £3 billion worth of goods and services each year. That gives us enormous power to achieve a lot of other social good. I hope that a consequence of the policy that we have brought through is that it will allow the Executive to do that across the board.