The Procurement Bill has progressed from the Commons Report and Third Reading stages to “consideration of amendments” in the Lords. The Government is understood to be targeting royal assent before the summer recess and commencement of the Procurement Act is anticipated in October 2024 following a six-month preparation period.
Clarifying amendments have been made to the Bill, but there are also substantive changes:
In a significant development, there are new powers intended to protect national security. Appropriate authorities will be empowered to debar suppliers from participating in procurements for specified types of contract where those suppliers are judged to be a national security risk in relation to those contracts.
There is a new requirement for contracting authorities to keep “sufficient” records to explain many decisions relating to awarding or entering public contracts. This includes a requirement to keep records of “any communication” between the contracting authority and a supplier relating to the award of or entry into a public contract before that contract is made.
Following consideration of an application for removal from the debarment list, there is now a clear positive obligation on the relevant Minister to notify the applicant of the decision made and the reasons for that decision.
It is no longer specified as being unsuitable for a contracting authority to exercise the power to switch to a direct award where the supplier’s tender price is abnormally low.
Separately, work to develop the secondary legislation that will eventually sit under the Procurement Act is nearing completion. Two phases of public consultation on the detail of those regulations should launch in June and July.
The Bill had its report stage and third reading on Tuesday 13 June 2023. The House of Commons passed the Bill with amendments. This is now with the House of Lords waiting for consideration of Commons amendments.