In our May 2014 newsletter, we reported that three new EU directives on public procurement, utilities procurement and concession contracts came into force in the European Union on 17 April 2014. Although Member States have until April 2016 to implement the directives, last week (on 26 February) the UK's new public procurement regulations (implementing the public procurement directive) came into force.

The new UK rules closely follow the EU directive, which was intended to modernise and increase the flexibility of the EU public procurement regime. However, the new UK rules also contain far more extensive provisions than are contained in the directive, which have a specific impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The Government has plainly stated its intention to maximise opportunities for SMEs by supporting transparency and reducing the administrative burden during the tender phase. The additional rules govern the procurement of below-threshold contracts, applying to contracts as low in value as GBP10,000 (for Central Government) and GBP25,000 (for NHS Trust contracts). It will remain to be seen whether the new below-threshold regime will increase accessibility and transparency for SMEs.

It should be noted that the new UK rules will not apply to tenders relating to the procurement of health care services for the purposes of the NHS, to which the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) Regulations 2013 still apply, i.e., tenders by Commissioners of NHS-funded services.

Finally, it is also important to note that the UK's 2006 procurement rules will still apply to any tenders which were started prior to 26 February 2015.