Labour wants stretching social, environmental and labour clauses in contracts © Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images
Labour wants stretching social, environmental and labour clauses in contracts © Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images

Public sector must report UK spend under Labour proposals

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 July 2021

Public bodies would be required to report how much they buy from British businesses under Labour proposals.

Labour said it would pass legislation to make such reporting mandatory while “asking every public body to give more contracts to British firms”.

Labour said it wanted to “make, buy and sell more in Britain” and a Labour government would “award more public contracts to British businesses”.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Labour would “use stretching targets in procurement to award more contracts to companies that are creating jobs and skills and apprenticeships here in Britain”.

She said the party would “help businesses who want, post-pandemic and post-Brexit, to reshore jobs, to make their supply chains more secure and resilient, to help them do that”.

Labour said it would use “stretching social, environmental and labour clauses in contract design to raise standards” and review the pipeline of all major infrastructure projects “to explore how to increase the materials made in Britain”.

Labour claimed “none of the Conservatives’ new priorities for procurement in their national procurement statement explicitly involve more UK firms having access to government contracts”.

“The government’s weak procurement conditions have no teeth,” said Labour. “When procuring key infrastructure, they do not use information on how proposals will benefit the UK when assessing bids.”

Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Labour make some sensible proposals for the reform of public procurement. Measures to encourage the greater involvement of SMEs are to be welcomed.

“The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains and the need for greater economic resilience. A greater emphasis on building the capabilities of UK business in important strategic areas is essential.

“However, Labour should be wary of pushing their proposals too far in a jingoistic or protectionist direction. An emphasis on buying British should not be achieved at the expense of delivering value for the taxpayer.”

A government spokesperson said: “Now we’ve left the European Union, we are reviewing our public procurement rules to better able to meet the needs of this country. Furthermore, our new Subsidy Control Bill will empower public authorities to support new industries and create jobs free from bureaucratic EU state aid rules.

“We will shortly publish an Innovation Strategy and our vision for life sciences as part of our plans to unleash private investment, onshore manufacturing and drive a strong economic recovery.” 

Last week Labour called for an independent inquiry into allegations of a “VIP lane” for the award of Covid Test and Trace contracts.

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