I want to focus on public procurement and the role it can play in driving forward social and environmental goals and, in particular, raising labour standards. The money public authorities spend on buying goods and services amounts to £108 billion every year from major capital projects to buying office stationery. Our public money supports private business. It is right that our public money should be used to encourage the private sector to support social goals. It is in the public interest that companies invest in high labour standards and measure which protect the environment. It is in the public interest that companies are good employers, and it is in the public interest that public authorities should go beyond laying down simple technical specifications for goods and services. Contracts should oblige companies to meet social and environmental goals. For example, in the interest of equal opportunity and social cohesion, publicly funded contracts should require companies to be actively committed to race equality. I have chosen this example because, in a Cabinet report, the Government themselves have recommended this course of action.
As we heard yesterday from Ken Livingstone, the LDA is already working hard to ensure that the Olympic contracts set new standards in social justice.
A new European law, which must be implemented by January, enables and encourages the inclusion of social goals in the tendering process. There is support from some sections of the business community; those good employers who invest in high labour standards but have to compete with those who do not.
The Government, however, appear very reluctant to make any practical steps in this direction. All around we hear the sound of dragging feet. Commitment to real progress from the heart of the Government is lukewarm at best. Value for money is defined too narrowly. Complaints about burdens on business are accepted too readily and social goals are abandoned too easily. That is why we must keep up the pressure. Writing social goals into public procurement contracts is not difficult. It is not in conflict with EU policy and it can be done, and unions, both in the public and private sectors, can work together to make sure that good intentions become real commitments. Please support.
Transcription from 2005 Congress verbatim report