Will the Minister explain the Welsh Government’s policy with regards to procuring from businesses that source goods from the occupied territories in Israel, and provide a list of procured goods originating from those areas?
As Minister with responsibility for procurement, where and whenever possible, I am committed to leading by example in directing how the Welsh Government spends its own money. I am also encouraging the wider public sector to use our collective £6bn annual procurement expenditure to deliver against the goals set out for us in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. To do so, we need to consider how and with whom we do business, and to go beyond our direct contractual relationships to concern ourselves with and to influence behaviours within our supply chains. The Wellbeing Goals recognise our responsibilities in this regard, requiring that we act to be ‘a Globally responsible Wales’. When doing anything to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, we are required to take account of whether or not our actions will make a positive contribution to global well-being.
I am aware of recent calls by Amnesty International and some public sector bodies which have passed motions in line with the determination that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law and calling for goods not to be procured from those areas. However, I under the current legal framework governing public procurement, the Public Contracts Regulations (PCRs) 2015, it is not possible to implement a procurement policy that gives effect to such motions.
The PCRs prescribe the reasons businesses may be excluded from bidding. Regulation 57(1) sets out mandatory grounds – e.g. corruption, fraud, bribery. Regulation 57(8) sets out the discretionary grounds – e.g. grave professional misconduct, distortion of competition. Where a bid is not disqualified on any of these grounds, it must be treated equally with all other bids and pursuant to the EU Treaty principles of fairness, transparency and non-discrimination.
Consequently, a procurement policy that involves the exclusion of all goods sourced from, or companies which have business interests within, Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied territories would be non-compliant with PCR 2015.
Should the context of the current legal framework change, then the Welsh Government could consider the issue afresh.
The Welsh Government does not encourage or offer support to economic or financial activities in the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. We support the UK Government’s policy based on compliance with international law and of seeking a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
We do not currently hold information to provide a list of procured goods originating from those areas.