MPs call for purchasing minister

27 February 2009

27 February 2009 | Jake Kanter

A post of procurement minister should be created to improve government spending and help the British economy, according to a group of MPs.

One of the parliamentarians said a procurement minister could also combat "financial terrorism". An Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled in the Commons by Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle on 9 February claimed the post would support British industry during the economic downturn.

As SM went to press, the motion had been signed by 30 MPs, including Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The EDM said: "This house recognises the importance of using procurement policy to support British industry and business; recognises that government procurement can be used as a catalyst for many sectors of the economy, particularly at a time of economic downturn; acknowledges the need for a co-ordinated approach to procurement across government departments in order to maximise the potential benefits to UK business and industry; and calls for the creation of a ministerial post with direct responsibility for all government procurement."

An amendment by Dai Davies, independent MP for Blaenau Gwent, added that the minister should also promote sustainability across public sector buying.

Hoyle told SM he wants to see the post created as soon as possible, adding that purchasing could help protect jobs by supporting British suppliers. He explained that awarding contracts to vendors in other countries is "unacceptable".

Davies argued a procurement minister should promote local sourcing and support British industry. "I come from an era when the steel and coal industry was based in Britain, but now financial terrorism has ruined our main industries. Procurement can tackle this."

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Rowen said the party wants to make a purchasing minister a cabinet position. He added that the public sector could save up to 10 per cent from its annual third party spend of about £160 billion.

"Procurement spends huge sums of money, but we try to reinvent the wheel every year," Rowen said. "We need someone based in cabinet to identify common issues and develop common solutions."

Conservative MP Ian Taylor said there must be a ministerial figure to work across the government and encourage greater engagement with small suppliers to help the public sector secure innovation. Andrew Haldenby, director of political think-tank Reform, criticised the proposal, arguing a purchasing minister will have no impact on the government's quest for value for money.

The OGC said there is already "a lot of ministerial support" for procurement. Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the Treasury is responsible for public expenditure, while Angela Eagle, exchequer secretary to the Treasury oversees the OGC and procurement policy.

Early Day Motion

  • EDMs enable MPs to record their opinions and canvas support from fellow MPs
  • MPs register their support for a motion with their signature
  • Ministers do not normally sign EDMs as they are prohibited from associating themselves with particular groups advocating special policies
  • The highest number of signatures for an EDM was 502
  • There is no guarantee an EDM will be debated in the House of Commons, regardless of how many signatures it attracts
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