Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parliament calls for new public contracts rules - but that doesn't let the Government off the hook

As my constituents are only too aware, the Tory-led Government's decision on Thameslink this summer will cost up to 1,400 jobs directly, and many thousands more indirectly in the region.

This major public contract was awarded to the lowest-cost bidder, without taking into account wider social and economic factors.

So yesterday in Strasbourg, I welcomed the European Parliament's call for tougher new rules for public procurement.

When a public contract is awarded, MEPs have said that the lowest price should no longer be the main factor in deciding which bid is successful. Instead, social, economic and environmental benefits should always be considered and standards should be driven up in areas such as quality of employment and sustainability.

Whilst new legislation is desperately needed, this doesn't let the Government off the hook. Even under the current rules, the Government could have chosen to take into account a number of economic and social criteria, rather than opting for the 'lowest-cost only' option.

The Government could also have chosen to start the process again from scratch, with better social and economic criteria. As a Director General of the European Commission confirmed, this would have been permissible under the existing procurement law - but the Government have refused to do so.

MEPs are calling for the European Commission to put new social procurement rules into the legislation it will be bringing forward earlier this year. I am also calling on the Commission to make sure all Governments make full use of these new rules. A repeat of the disastrous Thameslink decision must not be allowed.

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