The return to Parliament thanks to the Supreme Court has led to a number of very successful subjects being raised and one of them is this question from the Chichester MP, Gillian Keegan. Her question is excellent but frustratingly the answer by Kwasi Kwarteng fails to take into account a matter that the Government needs to resolve and which would overnight have a huge impact on our environment and many of our community’s local businesses. So every piece of Government and Public Sector procurement needs to focus on the travel distances involved in the work required as well as working to match the size of the contracts to what is manageable for local businesses. The various procurement frameworks that exist and have been set up by Government Agencies often ask for companies to cover huge distances and take on the size of contracts that limit the opportunities to small numbers of very large businesses. Now to be fair often these very large businesses simply take a percentage of the contract off for their success and then sub contract the work to smaller businesses and of course this may mean in due course that it is local businesses doing the work. However just as often the big businesses will demand that their workers get into vehicles and either travel long distances every day, or they will expect them to stay away from their homes for months while the jobs get done. The call for businesses to support local communities then gets met by these businesses making donations to local charities or something similar. What is needed is for the Government to reverse their thinking and call on all contractors to define how they will reduce the carbon footprint of the job. Far too often they simply want an ISO14001 policy even though signing up to such policies can significantly add to the carbon footprint of the business. Far better for the contractors to be asked to explain how far their staff will travel to do the work and how many local staff will be employed in the jobs. Some local County Councils do set out to open the door to local businesses when it comes to themes that are relatively easy to understand such as construction projects, but the moment the Government gets involved, or that the contracts get past a certain size, these approaches disappear. It is clear that there are a many rules involved in the procurement process but asking the Government to reshape some of them would be a good start.
However the answer from Kwasi was: There is significant potential for UK businesses of all types and sizes to reduce environmental impacts, including carbon emissions, and to save money by moving to more sustainable practices. Change is needed to achieve the Government’s commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and delivery of the targets of the 25-Year Environment Plan. The Government has rolled out numerous incentives to support businesses in increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon, while ensuring the availability of affordable energy. Some of these include:
- the Climate Change Agreement Scheme, which offers discounts to the Climate Change Levy tax in exchange for signing up to and meeting energy efficiency or carbon reduction targets.
- the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, a mandatory energy assessment scheme for large businesses.
- the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, a £315m fund to support industrial energy efficiency and decarbonisation projects.
- the Clean Steel Fund, £250m to support decarbonisation of the UK steel sector.