Whitehall lawyers have produced a short, easy-to-understand public sector contract to encourage smaller businesses to bid for £12m worth of government contracts.

The Government Legal Department says Chris Stanley, a lawyer from its commercial law group, spent the past year condensing 50,000 words of the existing Crown Commercial Service contract terms into a new 'slimline' public sector contract. The core terms of the new contract add up to just over 20 pages and will be the same for each CCS procurement.

Crown Commercial Service, Whitehall's procurement arm, commissioned the department to study existing government procurement contracts, public procurement contracts in other common law jurisdictions and private sector commercial terms in key markets.

The review unearthed clauses that were uniform across all contracts. Lawyers could substantially reduce the length of contracts by relocating frequently used provisions from the main body of the contract terms to 'modular optional schedules' that can be 'plugged in' where required. Drafting could be simpler, clearer and more concise 'without undermining legal certainty'. A single set of core terms for framework and 'call off' contracts would remove duplication. Lengthy provisions and processes could be streamlined. The contracting process could be simpler and more flexible.

The department says the 'much shorter' contract still offers all the commercial and legal protection that the government and suppliers need.

Small companies 'without a dedicated legal team will be able to better understand and adapt the Public Sector Contract to its needs by selecting the elements it needs to apply', the government said. Public sector buyers with greater legal capabilities, such as the Ministry of Justice, will be able to adapt the contract to suit their specialised requirements.