By Jeremy Quin and Alex Burghart
Under the new rules in the Procurement Act, we are throwing complicated and bureaucratic EU rules into the bin. We are stripping back red tape and making it easier for small businesses to win government contracts, delivering on one of the prime minister’s five priorities to grow the economy.
But as well as bringing economic benefits, the new rulebook also strengthens our national security, as part of this government’s commitment to take long-term decisions for a brighter future.
We are all too aware that the UK is a target for state-sponsored spying and that we need to protect it from those who seek to disrupt our democracy.
Our approach must be scrupulous, with safeguards and deterrents built into every avenue of access to our public services; this is about actions rather than words.
We have also passed the National Security Act, which gives us stronger legal powers to protect our industries and institutions. But we must go further to ensure we always outsmart those who want to disrupt our everyday lives.
One important way of keeping public services safe from foreign spies is by securing how they are procured for in the first place.
We have seen time and again that dangerous actors infiltrate states by giving their operations the camouflage of a company – a company offering essential services like communications or administration assistance. This can allow them to have unhindered access to public services information and potentially give them the capability to interfere with those services.
Our response to this challenge must be unequivocal. That’s why as part of our landmark Procurement Act we have strengthened the scrutiny facing companies that bid for public contracts.
Alongside the new rules, we are creating a new National Security Unit for Procurement, sitting within the Cabinet Office. This will work across government, including with our national security community, to investigate suppliers who could pose a risk to national security. The Unit will create a new layer of protection, by assessing whether companies should be struck off from competing to supply goods and services to the public sector where they pose a threat.
Next week the UK will lead the first-ever, and UK-hosted, AI safety summit. As we take action to seize the opportunities of new technology, our new National Security Unit for Procurement will coordinate with the national security community to assess whether public sector use of AI and procurement with emerging tech companies could do us harm.
This new approach means that we’re strengthening our defences, ensuring that those who seek to use their influence in all areas to undermine our security, cannot prevail.
So this landmark legislation will not only simplify our procurement rules and help small businesses, it will help us protect our security for decades to come.