The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster speaks to the ‘Reform’ think tank about re-building trust in public procurement post-Carillion.

It’s good news that the Government plans to strengthen the Social Value Act.

The Co-operative Party has long articulated that this piece of legislation should be used more in public procurement.

Increasing the responsibility of commissioners of public contracts from a duty ‘to consider’, to a compulsion, as indicated the Government is minded to do, is right and necessary.

Indeed, within the Party’s 2017 Policy platform An economy where wealth and power are shared, the Co-operative Party called for this, albeit in the context of a radical overall public procurement to ensure our country against ‘narrow, short-term value-for-money judgement’.

The Co-operative Party and wider co-operative movement have also campaigned hard to ensure that Government is doing all it can to ensure it tackles modern slavery. For example, Co-operative Party Parliamentarians have campaigned to ensure that, in relation to business supply chains, the Modern Slavery Act is meaningful by actually being enforced and monitored by Government.

Recognition by the Government that it will and should do more on this issues is therefore a victory for Co-operative politicians who have effectively held to the Government to account in the House of Commons and on the Committee Corridors.

Government Minister, David Lidlington MP, delivered a speech which sought to walk a tightrope between re-affirming continued Government support for the the same  types of businesses that delivered the Carillion crisis, while at the same time trying to claim that, in the Minister’s words, its was committed to ‘responsible capitalism’.

The Minister’s speech and the pre-briefed coverage continue to be grounded on the assumption that it is the private sector which is best placed to deliver public contracts.

It is also worrying that the newly announced principles laid out by the Minister are not the ones which have been the norm to date. The Co-operative Party believes that ‘maximum return for shareholder’-led businesses are poorly positioned to deliver services in the interests in the communities they seek to serve.

The Co-operative Party believes that co-operatives, mutuals and not-for-profit providers should replace the current private sector service delivery and will continue to support any measures which bring that closer to reality.

Given this announcement and its record, the Government will need to do much more work before the country is convinced they are willing to act radically. For all the headlines, there is little to suggest a willingness to fundamentally change the status quo, nor to act to ensure our economy properly promotes a different way of doing business.