HL Deb 03 December 1997 vol 583 cc197-8WA
Lord Monkswell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to issue new guidance on the conduct of compulsory competitive tendering.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman)

We have today published a new Departmental Circular No. 16/97 (Welsh Office 62/97) which gives local authorities guidance on the conduct of compulsory competitive tendering (CCT).

The guidance reflects the new regulations on CCT laid before Parliament on 21 November. These amended the existing framework for CCT in England and Wales to make it more flexible and encourage local authorities to move to a Best Value-based approach to service delivery. The new guidance will alow authorities to pursue the principles of Best Value in a manner consistent with the purpose of the CCT legislation (that is, that local authorities only carry out work if they do so competitively) and provide more flexibility to tendering.

A draft of the guidance formed part of a package of proposed changes to CCT which went out to consultation on 25 July. The new circular takes account of the views of 112 local authorities and related organisations, professional bodies and private sector interests who responded specifically to the draft. A further 19 responses were received by the Welsh Office. Copies of the responses are held in the DETR's library.

The guidance sets out the Government's views on how CCT should be carried out in the period before Best Value is implemented. It emphasises the importance of ensuring that competition is undertaken in an open and transparent manner and that service users and service providers are consulted on the level and standard of services to be provided. Local authorities should secure services which are economic, effective and efficient and in which considerations of price and quality are properly balanced. Competing bids need to be evaluated objectively and authorities need to deal fairly with potential contractors to ensure that tendering practice does not advantage any one potential supplier or suppliers.

The new guidance applies immediately to those services currently subject to CCT. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will take into account the extent to which there has been a contravention of the guidance in determining whether or not authorities have acted anti-competitively.