HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc1107-8W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the procurement of British-produced food by public bodies. [173682]

Alun Michael

A key objective of the Government's public sector food procurement initiative is to increase the amount of locally produced food purchased by public sector bodies. This cannot be done by restricting business to UK suppliers because the European Treaty prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality. However, the legal and policy framework for procurement does allow public bodies to create a competitive environment that will encourage more UK producers to bid for public sector business.

Public bodies are being advised to structure contract requirements so that small and local suppliers have the capacity and opportunity to compete and a realistic chance of being successful. One example is to specify more fresh seasonal produce. We are also asking food service companies to develop opportunities for local producers to become, part of their supply chains.

The scope for applying these measures will vary depending on the size and particular requirements of each public sector contract. Public bodies have an overarching duty to secure value for money and so will have to ensure that the measures they adopt to encourage more supplies of local food are proportionate and justified. Nevertheless, the Government are confident that more local produce could be supplied to the public sector through the intelligent application of procurement practice.

More information on this initiative is given on Defra's website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/farm/sustain/procurement/index.htm.