Coronavirus: Disease Control

Cabinet Office written question – answered on 15th February 2021.

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Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment he has made of the (a) social value, (b) ethnic diversity and (c) gender diversity in the awarding of public sector contracts relating to the covid-19 response.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what the process is for (a) identifying and (b) evaluating the capacity of companies being considered for contracts relating to the covid-19 response.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, if he will outline the steps taken by the Government to identify which parts of its response to the covid-19 outbreak should be outsourced to private companies.

Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

This Government recognises that outsourcing is an important component in a “mixed economy” of public service provision and that the private sector has played a crucial role in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including in relation to the development and procurement of the Government’s world-leading vaccine programme. Under the terms of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, departments and other public authorities are able to use various applicable procedures. Public authorities across the United Kingdom including the devolved administrations and local authorities have made use of direct awards - this includes Leeds City Council. Similar approaches were adopted by many other countries, including Japan, Finland and New Zealand. It is unrealistic to suggest that the government ought to have run a full public procurement competition for PPE and other critical contracts at the height of the pandemic. The minimum number of days a competitive award could take place under the current rules is 25 days. This would have hugely slowed down the buying of vital PPE supplies.

Further to the Outsourcing Playbook, available on gov.uk, and as has been the case under successive administrations, public sector contracting authorities are responsible for their own commercial decisions, such as the award and monitoring of contracts. New commercial policy relating to the evaluation and delivery of social value outcomes through central government procurement did not come into force until 1 January 2021. It is therefore unlikely that a formal assessment of social value was made in relation to direct award contracts relating to the covid-19 response. Regarding cyber security, details of the Cyber Essentials scheme is available on gov.uk. The requested information on service credits is not held centrally.

I note that the Hon Member has not yet replied to the letter by my Rt Hon Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster of 20 November 2020. As a courtesy, I will ensure that a further copy of the letter is sent to her office to ensure she has a chance to reply to the points raised.

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