§ Mr. Donohoe
To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what guidelines are currently in force in her Department and its executive agencies relating to competitive tendering and the use of single negotiated tenders; on what grounds single negotiated tenders can be used; and what procedures are in place within her Department to ensure that the use of single negotiated tenders in competitive tendering processes is justified in all cases. 
§ Mr. Sproat
My Department and its executive agencies abide by the Government's public purchasing policy, published in the document "Public Purchasing Policy: Consolidated Guidelines". The policy states that goods and services are to be acquired by competition unless there are convincing reasons to the contrary. In addition, EC procurement directives and the World Trade Organisation government procurement agreement require most contracts above specified thresholds to be awarded following competition, subject to certain specified exceptions. The central unit on procurement's guidance note No. 40 provides an overview of best practice in the competitive tendering process.
To ensure that value for money is obtained, goods and services are subject to competitive tender wherever practicable. In exceptional circumstances, single tender action may be permissible where (i) there is no alternative source of supply, (ii) specialist knowledge or expertise exists with a particular supplier, (iii) there is an overriding urgency arising from circumstances outside the Department's control. Any case for single tender action must be approved at director or chief executive level in the agencies and head of division level in my Department.
My Department has a single tender delegation from HM Treasury of £25,000. Beyond this, my Department has no authority and must seek approval from HM Treasury.
§ Mr. Donohoe
To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many contracts for goods or services have been awarded by her Department and its executive agencies on the basis of single negotiated contracts in each of the last three years; if she will list the companies involved and the value of the contract in each case; what percentage this represented of contracts awarded by her Department and its agencies after 227W competitive tendering; and, in each case, why the contracts were awarded on the basis of a single negotiated tender. 
§ Mr. Sproat
The total number and value of single tender contracts, with a value exceeding £500, awarded by my Department and its agencies in each of the last three years is shown in the table. In order to preserve commercial confidentiality, the information cannot be identified by value and individual contractor. In the majority of cases the reason for single tender has been due to (i) the specialist knowledge and expertise of the selected contractor, and (ii) overriding urgency arising from circumstances outside my Department's or its agencies' control. As can be seen from the table, the value of contracts let by single tender represents a small percentage of the total value of contracts let by my Department and its agencies.
1993–94 1994–95 1995–96 Total number of contracts let by single tender 13 26 36 Total value of contracts let by single tender £178,806 £401,200 £489,140 Single tender contracts expressed as a Percentage of competitive contracts (by number) 8 8 9 Single tender contracts expressed as a percentage of competitive contracts (by value) 1.3 1.6 1.6