§ Mrs. Roche
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the outcome of his Department's review of measures taken to facilitate small firms' access to appropriate areas of Government procurement in the light of best practice. 
§ Sir John Wheeler
As part of the Department of Finance and Personnel, the Government purchasing service has oversight of £800 million worth of procurement in NI each years. As I am sure the hon. Member appreciates, the majority of Northern Ireland firms are small and medium-sized enterprises and as such we have a fundamental objective to help these businesses prosper. In fact a key objective of the Government purchasing service is to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises are given maximum effective encouragement and opportunity to compete for public sector contracts in Northern Ireland. To this end, the Department, in conjunction with the CBI has promoted several "Meet the Buyer" events in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at which public sector buyers and representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises have been facilitated to do business together and to forge long term relationships.
The suppliers charter published late last year by the Government purchasing service is a declaration of its commitment to the principles of the citizens charter which aims to
- improve the quality of all public services
- make services more responsive to the needs of users
- ensure value for money.
It also emphasises the commitment to provide all small and medium-sized enterprises with the opportunity to compete for the provision of goods and services in fair, open and equal competition.