Central Government has moved to clamp down on public sector bodies refusing to procure from certain countries on political grounds (Town-Hall Boycotts). In a recent Procurement Policy Note, Cabinet Office have clearly reminded public sector entities from local government to bodies conducting public functions that the UK's international trade agreements do not allow them to exclude or discriminate against bidders within the EU or the GPA (including Armenia, Israel, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei).

In addition, the Policy Note advises public sector bodies that they are expected to seek the best offer balancing cost and benefit regardless of origin. The purpose of public procurement is to get the best deal for the purchasers, not to consider the origin of bidders.

This is a stark warning which may be as much motivated by the government's desire to stimulate trade with international partners as analysis of legal requirements under procurement law. Nonetheless, it should be remembered that the Courts and the European Commission are able to take action to enforce against discriminatory awards.

The option to include legitimate policy criteria favouring local social and employment aims remains and can be used. However, this must not be aimed at excluding certain foreign bidders.