To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bethell on 24 November (HL10126), whether the use of the “extreme urgency” provision in Regulation 32(2)(c) instead of competitive tendering has become the default method for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies; whether the demand for PPE has returned to more predictable levels such that contracts for PPE supplies can return to being competitively tendered; and what assessment they have made of the continued use of the “extreme urgency” provision in the current circumstances.
We have made use of existing procurement rules which allow the Government to procure at speed in times of emergency, as confirmed in Cabinet Office Guidance circulated to procuring authorities in March. Regulation 32(2)(c) for the direct award of a contract is not a new procedure but its use was necessary due to a highly volatile global market and the extreme urgency at which we had to proceed.
The guidance issued by the Cabinet Office set out a range of options under the Procurement Regulations which can be used depending on urgency and other factors. In addition to direct awards, authorities can reduce the minimum timescales for the open procedure, the restricted procedure and the competitive procedure with negotiation if a state of urgency renders the standard timescales impracticable. All future procurement routes will be considered against the specific requirement and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 to determine how best to proceed.