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The Queen’s Speech, December 2019

18 December 2019 saw the delivery of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, setting out the new Government’s agenda. Here, we take a look at some of the elements of proposed legislation that are of most relevance to BiP Solutions’ customers.

The UK’s departure from the European Union on 31 January was a priority, with a total of seven separate points of legislation covering different aspects of Brexit discussed. The proposed legislation covers areas agriculture, fisheries, combating “unfair trading practices” and aiming for stability in financial services. The Department for Exiting the EU itself will be dissolved on 31 January, with some of its functions rolled into the Department for International Trade.

Healthcare is another key area of focus, with legislation being introduced to enshrine a £33.9bn increase in NHS funding by 2023/4. The Mental Health Act will also be reformed, and a Medicines and Medical Devices Bill aims to deliver faster patient access to medical innovations, simultaneously supporting the growth of this area in the UK.

Sustainability and environmental damage are also mentioned, with an Environment Bill establishing a new Office for Environmental Protection, introducing charges for specific single-use plastics, and banning exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries. This will necessitate the development of capacity to process this waste in the UK, meaning there will need to be investment and development of the relevant infrastructure.

Infrastructure was much discussed during the campaign for the recent election, and it receives specific attention in the Queen’s Speech too, with commitment to a National Infrastructure Strategy that will outline how investiture in public services and infrastructure will be achieved while keeping government borrowing and debt under control. There will also be a move to improve broadband provision, with legislation facilitating the installation of digital infrastructure. You can read more about the implications of the Speech for the construction industry at Construction Online.

Finally, there were many announcements made in defence and security, ranging from new legislation covering espionage to prisoner sentencing. Possibly the major announcement in this area for businesses is the commitment to spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence. Defence Online has covered this in more detail.

The text of the Queen’s Speech is available here while the Government’s briefing notes covering the proposed bills are here.

UK General Election 2019: What Next?

The General Election of 12 December 2019 gave the Conservative party a comfortable majority, meaning that the Government will likely find it easy to introduce the legislation and changes to public spending that they wish. Here, we review what we know so far about the pledges the Government made before the election, and the effect they are likely to have for business with the public sector.

As the situation continues to develop, the BiP Solutions news page will bring you the latest updates, and what they mean for public procurement.

Spending pledges

Incumbent Chancellor Sajid Javid has proposed revision of the rules concerning government borrowing, to allow borrowing so long as debt does not exceed 3% of GDP, rather than 2%. This allows for potentially dramatically greater spending. The Conservatives’ election manifesto pledges were costed at an increase in spending of £2.9bn a year by 2022. The NHS has also been a major source of discussion, with a proposed bill enshrining an increase in funding for the NHS, alongside the pledge to recruit thousands more nurses. Similarly, the Conservatives have pledged to recruit more police officers. Such recruitment would mean, for example, a greater requirement for uniforms, catering, facilities management, payroll and HR solutions and other services. Investment into people usually requires investment into infrastructure – for example new buildings or the renovation and re-fit of existing premises – which in turn drives a fresh cycle of investment into furniture, IT equipment and other goods.

Infrastructure is another potential major source of investment, with the Conservative manifesto allowing for up to £100bn in additional capital spending over the next five years. Of this amount, £22bn has been designated for specific projects, such as £2bn on fixing potholes and £2.2bn on a public sector carbon reduction scheme. £78bn of the infrastructure fund remains to be allocated. You can read more about the outcome of the election and what it means for the construction industry at Construction Online.

On tax, the Conservative manifesto pledges to raise the national insurance threshold to £9500 from next year, and that there will be no rises in rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT. There is also a reaffirmation of the party’s pledge to make the UK a carbon-neutral country by 2050, with the attendant spending on renewable energy and associated technology. More speculatively, there have also been discussions of reforming central government departments such as the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence. To read more about the outcomes of the election for the MoD and the defence industry, visit Defence Online.

To read more about key trends for public procurement in the wake of the general election, download our recent report, ‘The Public Sector Market in 2020 and Beyond.’ Published ahead of the election, this report includes detailed breakdown of data relating to public sector notices before and after election periods, and describes the major themes that will shape public procurement in 2020.

Brexit confirmed?

The Conservatives’ election victory also appears to reduce some of the uncertainty around Brexit. The Government will seek to implement the Withdrawal Agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously negotiated with the EU, ahead of 31 January. The Conservative party has previously stated that the terms of a trade deal with the EU will be negotiated in 2020, with the aim that the UK trades outside of the EU single market and any form of customs union. The Cabinet Office has suggested a divergence of procurement rules from EU standards post-Brexit, with the aim of making it simpler for smaller firms to bid for local government contracts. Such changes may be dependent, however, on the terms of the future trading relationship with the EU, and the required alignment of terms.

During the transition period, the UK will remain aligned with EU rules. The Conservative party have previously stated that there will be no extension to the transition period beyond the end of 2020, and the Prime Minister will potentially modify the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to enshrine this in law. The date of the end of the transition period is significant as, in spite of the most recent Brexit extension up to 31 January 2020, trade regulations effectively replicating a ‘no-deal Brexit’ will remain the legal default unless a trade agreement superseding this is ratified by both the EU and the UK Parliament. This remains the case in spite of the Withdrawal Agreement previously negotiated with the EU.

For all the latest news, guidance and information relating to Brexit and public procurement, visit BiP Solutions’ dedicated Brexit resources page. Alongside guidance on how businesses can best prepare for a ‘no-deal Brexit’, our recent report ‘Brexit: Challenges and Opportunities for Public Sector Buyers’ is also available. Based on a detailed survey of public sector procurement leaders, this research report reveals what the public sector really thinks of Brexit, and how prepared the public sector is – including for a ‘no-deal’ outcome.

The Queen’s Speech, October 2019

Yesterday saw the Queen’s Speech mark the opening of a new session of Parliament. While the UK’s departure from the EU, and precisely what the terms of this might be, are inevitably at the forefront of discussion, several other key points affecting various sectors were also addressed. The Government’s proposed measures surrounding criminal justice have generated the most headlines, but away from the newspapers, the proposed Serious Violence Bill would affect many areas of the public sector. The Bill would develop a local approach to tackling violent crime through sharing relevant data and information between organisations across local government, education, social services, healthcare and the criminal justice system. As ever, effective technology and data across the public sector would be central to this.

The Speech also included mention of several documents the Government aims to publish later in the year or in 2020, including the National Infrastructure Strategy and a whitepaper on devolution in England with the aim of stimulating regional growth. Here, we consider some of the other major announcements in the areas of most interest to BiP’s customers.

Healthcare

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly stressing the importance of the NHS recently, it is unsurprising that healthcare was one of the key areas addressed in the Queen’s Speech. The Speech stressed a commitment to implementing the NHS Long Term Plan, as well as revisions to the provision of social care and mental health services. Also announced was the establishment of the Health Service Safety Investigation Body, a world-first independent tasked with investigating incidents that occur during the provision of NHS services that have, or may have, implications for the safety of patients.

You can read more about the implications of the Queen’s Speech for the healthcare sector on Health Online, our dedicated healthcare community and news site.

Technology

In addition to as-yet unspecified legislation to “roll out gigabit-capable broadband across the UK” with the aim of “boosting productivity” and “driving innovation in our public services”, the Queen’s Speech stressed the Government’s commitment to “establishing the United Kingdom as a world-leader in scientific capability and space technology.” As well as to-be-confirmed plans to boost public research and development (R&D) funding – going towards a stated aim for 2.4% of GDP to be spent on R&D by 2027 – the Government has pledged the establishment of a new National Space Council and the launch of a comprehensive UK Space Strategy. Further details about the MOD’s current planned space programme have been covered by Defence Online here and here.  The Government has also stated that a new fast-track immigration scheme for world-leading scientists and researchers will help significantly enhance the intellectual and knowledge base of the UK. How this will fit alongside the Government’s wider immigration reforms and strategy will be clarified.

Environmental impact

The proposed Environment Bill would introduce “legally-binding targets” and “mandatory biodiversity protections,” which would ensure that construction projects, including new housing, is not build at the expense of biodiversity – as demonstrated by previous projects such as Highways England’s recent A66 project and the review of the deforestation that could be caused by HS2. Further measures would include looking at air and water quality, single-use plastic and effective recycling and litter reduction. These measures further demonstrate the importance of sustainable practices throughout business.

October Brexit Round-Up

Globe map of UK and western Europe

With the UK still scheduled to leave the EU on 31st October, the status of negotiations within the EU parliament will be closely watched over the coming days. Today (14th October), the Queen’s Speech to open the new session of the UK Parliament is expected to outline further the Government’s plans for Brexit and the period immediately after exit day. More than three years after the referendum, there is still much to be decided and confirmed.

Ahead of an important week, the latest updates on BiP Solutions’ dedicated Brexit news and resources page cover a range of aspects of Brexit and how it might affect public procurement.

  • Our September Brexit Briefing looks at sources of opportunity for procurement after Brexit – both in the UK and further afield.
  • With the possibility of further debate around the legislation aiming to block any ‘no-deal Brexit’, it remains important for businesses to be clear on what the effects of ‘no-deal’ might be and how they can prepare. Our explainer blog from Phillip Kinnell, Senior Procurement Consultant at the Procurement Advice and Support Service (PASS), examines the legislation that specifically affects procurement in relation to a ‘no-deal Brexit.’ A more in-depth look at the various ways in which ‘no-deal’ might impact procurement, and how businesses can prepare, is available through the recording of our recent webinar led by Phillip, ‘What a No Deal Brexit Could Mean for Public Procurement.’
  • Also on 8th October, the House of Commons (HoC) Research Library published ‘Brexit and UK Defence: An Explainer.’ You can read Defence Online’s detailed blog on the latest updates around the UK’s and EU’s changing relationship in terms of defence here, while the HoC Library report and the Government’s own advice on the defence sector and preparing for Brexit are available in our Resources section.
  • Other sector-specific information available on our Resources page includes guidance for healthcare providers and the space sector. For the latest healthcare news, visit our dedicated healthcare community Health Online.
  • The list of trade agreements with other countries and trading blocs that will take effect when the UK leaves the EU continues to be updated.
  • Our factsheets, ‘Procurement After No Deal’ and ‘Procurement After Brexit: Deal or No Deal’, are still available, and cover the basics of the legislation and necessary preparations for organisations around Brexit. Produced in April and March respectively, these documents remain relevant as they outline key guidance such as the new UK e-notification service replacing the need to publish tenders in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) – now named the ‘Find a Tender Service’ – and the need for businesses to acquire an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

Our Brexit resources page will continue to be updated as the situation develops, allowing you to stay abreast of all the latest and most relevant information for public procurement and business.

Cyber Security Awareness Week

In recent years cyber security has become ever more of a pressing issue. The after-effects of the devasting WannaCry attack that affected major organisations in 150 countries around the world, including the NHS, are still being felt, and the scale of cyber interference in worldwide democracy is starting to become apparent – if not fully realised yet. Gone are the days when ‘cyber security’ simply meant individual users not clicking links in scam emails; cyber attacks are becoming ever more insidious, sophisticated and large-scale. The National Cyber Security Centre has said it defends the UK from an average of ten cyber attacks per week.

Bearing all of this in mind, the need for companies to become aware of the risks, and to ensure that they are as they are as secure as possible, should be apparent. In this post, we’ll discuss about how BiP Solutions can help, and give a round-up of our cyber security-related updates from this week.

Cyber Essentials

Cyber Essentials is a Government-backed and industry-supported scheme that helps both businesses and public sector organisations protect themselves against cyber attacks and provides a clear statement of the basic controls organisations should have in place to protect themselves. The certification defines clear guidance on basic cyber security for organisations of all sizes, and offers a solid foundation of cyber security measures that all types of organisations can implement at a low cost.

Being Cyber Essentials certified is mandatory for any organisation bidding for central government and MOD contracts that deal with the handling of personal information and/or the provision of certain IT products and services. Therefore, if you’re looking to bid for these contracts, you must hold Cyber Essentials certification.

For Cyber Security Awareness Week we’re offering the chance to become certified for £250 plus VAT, through using the code ‘Cyberaware50’ at the checkout. See Cyber Essential’s top ‘next steps’ tips here, and for more details, see https://www.cyberessentialsonline.co.uk/.

Expert analysis & opinion

To learn more about how cyber security is currently affecting procurement, download our two most recent reports. Our 15-page ‘Challenges & Opportunities for Local Government Procurement in a Digital World’ includes a feature on key digital trends in procurement, including cyber security and its links to blockchain technology. Our survey report, ‘Procurement Approaches Across the Public Sector: Challenges & Opportunities 2018-19’, produced in collaboration with our colleagues from iGov Survey, brings together research and opinions from throughout the public sector. Key statistics include the fact that 63% of respondents said that they now have a designated cyber security lead.

Cyber security has a huge crossover with the Defence sector, not only in terms of active national security operations – an ever-growing area of focus – but also in areas that affect every business or organisation, such as ensuring transactions are secure. Each day this week our Defence Online site has been featuring special contributions from industry experts on how cyber security affects many different areas of the Defence sector. Read all the features here. And for more on how the Defence sector in particular needs to consider the ease with which cyber attacks can be conducted, see this post from our Defence Contracts International site, along with more cyber security top tips.

To learn more about BiP Solutions and our full range of solutions and how they can help ensure you’re working as securely as possible, visit our homepage.

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