Gareth Thomas tables social value amendments to public services bill

But they are not supported by Chris White, who introduced the proposed legislation

Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas, the shadow minister for civil society, has tabled a series of amendments to "strengthen" a private member’s bill that would require all public sector contracts to include a social value clause.

The amendments to the Public Services (Social Value) Bill would result in "a fairer contest between big corporate interests and the right of charities and social enterprises", said Thomas, and would reintroduce elements of the original bill which were removed at committee stage by Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.

The private members’ bill, originally introduced by Chris White, the Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington, requires public service commissioners to consider the social value that would emerge from a contract, in addition to price.

It has received cross-party support and reaches its report stage in the House of Commons tomorrow, when the amendments will be debated by MPs.

Thomas’s amendments would reinstate a requirement for local and central government to develop social enterprise strategies and would again widen the number of contracts covered by social value legislation, to include goods as well as services. These were removed by Hurd last month.

Thomas’s changes would also add a new requirement for the secretary of state to publish an annual report on the government’s strategy for social enterprises.

If sufficient MPs support the amendments tomorrow in Parliament they will be incorporated into the bill for its third reading in the House of Commons. It will then be taken through the House of Lords by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Richard Newby.

Andrew O’Brien, White’s parliamentary researcher, said that although most of what has been put forward by Thomas was originally in the bill, White does not support the amendments because they have little chance of success.

"Chris’s primary goal is to get this legislation passed, so he supports the bill as it stands," said O’Brien. "The government has made it very clear that it doesn’t support the inclusion of strategies or of regulating goods and works contracts. If the amendments were passed the bill would collapse."

Thomas says that his amendments would strengthen the bill and had support from people in the charity sector. "We hope we can persuade the government to change its mind," he said.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, previously said the bill could be "one of the most important pieces of legislation for our sector in a generation".

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