Caroline Nokes Is the UK’s New Minister for Procurement

The responsibilities of the UK Cabinet Office Ministers have not yet been officially confirmed (according to gov.uk website) but we understand that Parliamentary Secretary Caroline Nokes is the new “Minister for Procurement”. She was elected MP for Romsey and Southampton North in 2010, and having never heard of her, we read the Wikipedia entry with interest and found that:

“Nokes lists her particular interests as international development, sport, the equine industry, the environment, energy, animal welfare, family law, local government and planning. She has recently spoken in debates on planning policy, reforming the Child Support Agency, Family Based Agreements, Adoption, and the closure of the Ford plant in her constituency. She has also introduced legislation on Dangerous Dogs, and in January 2011, the Consumer Protection Bill”.

So clearly a deep interest commercial and procurement matters there! Her father was an MEP and she was a councillor from an early age, so it looks like politics was an inevitability for her; her only real job outside politics appears to have been as Chief Executive for the National Pony Society, an animal welfare charity. There has to be a joke in there somewhere but we just can’t quite reach it at the moment … She’s also had an interesting personal life – and deserves sympathy for some of what she has gone through - but we’ll let you look that up yourselves if you are so inclined.

She hope she turns out to be a brilliant, innovative and involved supporter and change agent for government commercial matters. We’ll wait and see, but we genuinely wish her the best in the role.

However, we do seem to have lost much of the Ministerial focus on the topic since Francis Maude’s departure. That is highlighted by the recently published list of meetings, gifts and hospitality for Ministers between January and March this year. We took a look at Ben Gummer’s declaration; remember, he was Minister for Procurement before being kicked out by the electors of Ipswich last month.

His main areas of interest appeared to have been voter registration and regional questions including  Scotland and Wales related issues. But in the three months in question, he seems to have had only one Ministerial meeting related to the commercial world – a meeting with Cindy Rose, CEO of Microsoft, to “discuss the company’s relationship with HM Government”.

Gummer did not appear to us to be saying much about procurement, and we have heard nothing from the inside about any deep interest or insight coming from him, so we have to assume he put other aspects of his extensive portfolio higher up the priority list.

Now I know some public sector veterans will be saying “good, the last thing we want is Ministers talking to suppliers”! We might sympathise somewhat with that view. But this does support the feeling that procurement and commercial matters seem to have slipped down the political agenda, other than the big capital projects such as Hinkley and HS2.  The manifestos pre-election were light on new thinking too, as we said at the time, with Labour’s take on public procurement as a driver for social policy pretty much the only apparent interest in the topic.

So we do hope that Nokes takes some interest in the topic. The public sector is spending over £200 BILLION a year through third-party procurement; a third of all government expenditure. That would seem to be worth a bit of thought, attention and focus at the political level.

Voices (2)

  1. Peter:

    Likewise we wish her well. However we note the lack of practical expertise in many that are appointed to ministerial positions …………
    Is there something here of the fabled British “cult of the gifted amateur”

  2. Sam Unkim:

    More importantly.
    Is Vice Chairman of All Party Parliamentary ‘Save the Pub’ Group [25] and a member of the Parliamentary Beer Group

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