Procurement Bill strengthened to protect national security
Stepped up measures to protect national security in government contracts are to be brought forward, the government has announced today
- New amendments tabled to the Procurement Bill to strengthen national security.
- Specialist unit to be established to investigate suppliers who may pose risk to national security.
- Amendment to allow bidders to be banned from sensitive sectors, while able to win contracts in non-sensitive areas.
- Procurement Bill, which will rip up red-tape and help small businesses, to have its Report Stage next week.
Stepped up measures to protect national security in government contracts are to be brought forward, the government has announced.
Yesterday the government tabled amendments to the Procurement Bill, ahead of its Report Stage in Parliament next week to include two new measures:
- Establishing a National Security Unit for Procurement. The new team, which will be based in the Cabinet Office, will investigate suppliers who may pose a risk to national security, and assess whether companies should be barred from public procurements.
- New powers to ban suppliers from specific sectors, such as areas related to defence and national security, while allowing them to continue to win procurements in non-sensitive areas.
In addition, the Government is committing to publish a timeline for the removal of surveillance equipment produced by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law from sensitive central government sites.
Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Jeremy Quin said:
"Protecting the nation’s security has always been the government’s number one job.
"These new measures will protect our sensitive sectors from companies which could threaten national security and are a firm deterrence to hostile actors who wish to do Britain harm.
"This builds on the robust rules within the Procurement Bill to hold suppliers to account and ensure that the taxpayer is protected."
The new National Security Unit for Procurement will draw on a full range of expertise within government and respond swiftly to emerging threats, such as companies looking to win public contracts in order to gain access to sensitive information or sites which could be used to compromise government and society. The specialist team will work across government, including liaising closely with our intelligence agencies.
To further strengthen the national security measures, the government is introducing new, context-specific mandatory debarments on national security grounds. This will mean that the government will be able to ban suppliers which pose a risk to national security from specific types of contracts.
The commitment to publish a timeline for the removal of relevant surveillance equipment from sensitive sites builds on action taken last year to halt the installation of new equipment on the government estate. It will provide the necessary reassurance that departments are removing surveillance equipment from sensitive sites.
Cabinet Office Minister Alex Burghart said:
"The Procurement Bill puts the government in a stronger position to get the best deal for taxpayers, while prioritising growth by cutting red tape and removing barriers for small businesses.
"It’s absolutely right we continue to look at ways to strengthen central government rules when it comes to national security and I have no doubt these additional measures will ensure the Bill delivers on its objective to have a robust, modern procurement process which delivers for the British people."
The Bill, which will have its Report Stage in the House of Commons next week, will make it easier for small businesses (SMEs) to win more of the £300billion of goods, services and works that the government buys each year.
The Bill introduces new rules to help the government procure in emergency situations, such as during health pandemics, ensuring that contracting authorities can act quickly and transparently to buy vital goods.
These simpler rules take advantage of freedoms now that Britain has left the EU, as well as strengthening the government’s ability to exclude suppliers who may have previously underperformed on government work. The rules will help exclude suppliers, both in the UK and overseas who are involved in modern slavery - further clamping down on this abhorrent practice.
The Bill also confirms that value for money remains paramount during contracting, whilst also encouraging buyers to take into account other relevant wider social and environmental considerations the supplier may bring.