Brown 'must try harder' on EU contracts

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The Independent Online

Alan Wood, the chief executive of Siemens UK, said there had been "no significant" improvement since his report was published in November 2004. He implied that little had been done after Mr Brown highlighted the report at the Ecofin council of European finance ministers, at the time of its publication.

"He went and bashed a few finance ministers over the head with it but that is not the way to achieve change," Mr Wood said in an interview with The Independent on Sunday. "Working behind the scenes over a long period of time is."

Public procurement in Europe is worth an estimated €1,500bn (£1,000bn) a year, or 16 per cent of the EU economy. Mr Brown commissioned the Wood review to investigate claims of discrimination against UK firms bidding for European government contracts. The review recommended that the Government and the European Commission monitor public procurement more closely.

"I accept it is not easy," Mr Wood said. "You are fighting political considerations in other countries. But it can't be the job of individual businesses to go and lobby Brussels about it. It has to be the Government. The issue is the extent to which the Government can influence their counterparts in Europe. That seems to be hard."

The Government has been criticised by the CBI for lack of progress in making its own procurement more transparent. Mr Brown was forced into a U-turn last week over his promise to cut red tape by scrapping the requirement on all listed companies to produce an operating and financial review each year.

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