On 28 January 2010, the Court of Justice of the European Union gave a preliminary ruling in the Uniplex case. This considered the compatibility of s47(7) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006, governing the date from which the period for bringing proceedings starts to run in public procurement cases, with the original European Union (EU) Remedies Directive. This judgment held that the current limitation rules in the UK public procurement regulations do not comply with EU law.

Following this case, changes must be made to UK procurement rules so that:  

  • the time limit only starts to run from when the claimant knew or ought to have known of the infringement (to help guarantee the effectiveness of the remedy); and
  • the requirement to act “promptly” is removed (due to the inherent uncertainty this provides).

On 24 November 2010, the Cabinet Office published a consultation document seeking views on three proposals for amending the statutory time limit for bringing proceedings alleging breach of the public procurement rules.

The three options are:  

  • shortening the time period to 10/15 days from the date of knowledge of the alleged infringement;
  • fixing a longer time period of, probably, 30 days from the date of knowledge; or
  • having a short 10/15 day time period but giving the court the discretion to extend to three months or less.

Comments on these are invited by 19 January 2011, following which the Cabinet Office will publish a summary of the results, make and lay before Parliament the relevant amending regulations by statutory instrument, and issue guidance on the rule change.