To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment he made of a company’s vulnerability to cyberattacks when awarding contracts relating to the Government’s covid-19 response.
8 February 2021
This Government recognises that outsourcing is an important component in a “mixed economy” of public service provision and that the private sector has played a crucial role in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including in relation to the development and procurement of the Government’s world-leading vaccine programme. Under the terms of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, departments and other public authorities are able to use various applicable procedures. Public authorities across the United Kingdom including the devolved administrations and local authorities have made use of direct awards - this includes Leeds City Council. Similar approaches were adopted by many other countries, including Japan, Finland and New Zealand. It is unrealistic to suggest that the government ought to have run a full public procurement competition for PPE and other critical contracts at the height of the pandemic. The minimum number of days a competitive award could take place under the current rules is 25 days. This would have hugely slowed down the buying of vital PPE supplies.
Further to the Outsourcing Playbook, available on gov.uk, and as has been the case under successive administrations, public sector contracting authorities are responsible for their own commercial decisions, such as the award and monitoring of contracts. Regarding cyber security, details of the Cyber Essentials scheme is available on gov.uk. The requested information on service credits is not held centrally.
I note that the Hon Member has not yet replied to the letter by my Rt Hon Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster of 20 November 2020. As a courtesy, I will ensure that a further copy of the letter is sent to her office to ensure she has a chance to reply to the points raised.