Parliamentary group launches procurement research

A high-level bid to raise awareness in Government about procurement practice has been launched with the aim of improving design buying in the Civil Service.

Organised by the all-party Associate Parliamentary Group for Design and Innovation, the research-based initiative is a joint venture with the Design Business Association, one of APGDI’s financial backers.

According to Oliver Coppard, manager of the APGDI, the objective is ‘to better understand what is going on and why’.

‘We will look at the problems and evolve solutions to be put to Parliament’, he says.

Coppard says the venture was born off the back of the Cox Review of 2005, which flagged up public sector procurement as an issue.

The mechanics will follow the procedures of a Select Committee, he says. A panel of half a dozen MPs, House of Lords representatives and design industry experts will hear evidence about current practice and make recommendations for improvements to Parliament.

The search is on for a chair for the panel, with Labour’s Baroness Morris, chairwoman of the Institute for Public Policy Research North, already on board as a panel member.

But Coppard is confident that evidence-giving will be completed by July, which means recommendations could be presented at the start of the October parliamentary session.

DBA chief executive Deborah Dawton says the move was prompted by the concerns of DBA members. ‘The incidence of poor practice [in the public sector] appears to be ever on the increase,’ she says. ‘The issue is that Government could be using its funds better to buy smarter by instituting better processes.’ The trawl for evidence will start with DBA members, Dawton adds, but the aim is to embrace interests from across design.

Established by Barry Sheerman, Labour MP for Huddersfield, the APGDI is independent of Government, but works closely with MPs to raise issues of importance in the industry.

Topics on the agenda include a session on design apprenticeships, organised with the Associate Parliamentary Group for Skills and the Design Council, which is a financial backer, alongside the DBA.

Lobbying for Design in Parliament

• The Associate Parliamentary Group on Design and Innovation was set up by Labour MP Barry Sheerman to promote understanding of design across Parliament

• It is cross-party and backed by the Design Business Association and the Design Council, but it is also in talks with Nesta

• Future plans include: a session of design apprenticeships with the Design Council and the Associate Parliamentary Group for Skills; a session on 20 February with the Design Council for MPs’ researchers, described as ‘the gatekeepers to MPs diaries’; and establishing a National Innovation Commission with Nesta for design leaders to communicate regularly with Parliament

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