Friday, 17 October 2014
Social Clauses in Public Procurement Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members]
EU law leaves the member states the option to take social consideration into account provided the general principles of EU law, in other words, the free movement provisions and the principles of equal treatment, non-discrimination, mutual recognition, proportionality and transparency, are respected. The appropriateness of social clauses in procurement projects will vary from contract to contract and they are likely to be most suited to works and service contracts. The use of social clauses should be implemented therefore in a targeted manner. It is critically important to identify the variety of social clauses that can be targeted to meet specific social and other requirements, the scope for wider use of such social clauses across the public service and their effectiveness and economic impact.
We want to learn from the practical experiences of where social clauses are currently being piloted as well as from the experience in other jurisdictions. I pointed out that the Government is already engaged in a number of initiatives designed to encourage social clauses. I look forward to seeing the outcome of those pilots. I take on board the comments and will review the issues raised by Members today. I want to see greater involvement of SMEs and I believe the development of that sector will drive growth in employment and training opportunities.
The issue of displacement arose during the debate and it is one that has been discussed on many occasions. I want to be clear on this, what I am referring to in relation to it is a genuine concern about displacement. There are many companies in this country which have held on to existing workers in really hard times rather than letting them go. They have managed to keep them in employment and just about in some cases. It is important that any social clause we introduce does not inadvertently penalise those people. I know that is not the intention of any Member but it is a legitimate concern that we have in regard to not providing flexibility within the system.
I look forward to following the debate at the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on Tuesday. I also look forward to the pilot project group and the social clauses group reporting backing in June of next year, the Meet the Buyer event in November and to continued engagement in this House. I thank Deputy McDonnell for the opportunity to discuss this issue.