An update on the progress of negotiations between EU countries on changes to public purchasing regulations published by the Cabinet Office has revealed a number of amendments. It also said mandatory division of contracts into lots to benefit SMEs has been dropped from the reforms.
The Cabinet Office said many of the reforms the UK government had campaigned for that were included in the initial European Commission proposal (including simplified prequalification and greater freedom to negotiate with bidders) have been retained.
But it did say it was unlikely to prevent the removal of the status of “part B” services – services to which not all the current procurement rules apply – a proposal that is supported by a number of other nations. A suggested compromise is that a lighter regulatory regime will be applied to a broader range of services than originally suggested.
It also suggested the final revised directive could be implemented in the UK in early 2013, more than a year ahead of the June 2014 deadline for implementation across Europe. Although it said this is dependent on the directive’s passage through the European Parliament.
The procurement policy note issued by the Cabinet Office added that the UK government is opposed to plans to block companies from countries that do not offer similar access to public contracts from tendering for European contracts. “[The regulation] could lead to a net reduction in market access and could diminish growth potential at a time when it is needed most,” the note said, although it emphasised discussions have not yet begun on this issue.