§ Mrs. Roche
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how often his Department and each agency within it has failed to pay invoices due to small businesses within 30 days in each of the last five years. 
Mr. John M. Taylor
The information required to answer the question fully is not held centrally. Since 1992, the Department and its agencies have conducted periodic surveys of performance against the Government's target of 30 days for the payment of invoices. Four surveys have been carried out, covering all invoices paid during specific periods. Those surveys show the percentage of invoices paid within 30 days as follows:
- 1991–92: 82.5 per cent.
- 1992–93: 83.4 per cent.
- 1993–94: 89.4 per cent.
- 1994–95: 93.9 per cent.
The target for this financial year is 95 per cent. A new survey is under way, but the results are not yet available.
Information relating specifically to small businesses and for earlier years is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The Lord Chancellor is now responsible for four agencies: the Court Service, Her Majesty's Land Registry, the Public Record Office and the Public Trust Office. Information relating to the Court Service is included above, as it became an agency only after the period covered by the information available; and information relating to the Public Trust Office is included up to the time it acquired agency status in July 1994. In respect of the Land Registry, the Public Record Office, and the Public Trust Office from July 1994, the question concerns operational matters on which the chief executives are best placed to provide answers. I have accordingly asked them to reply direct.
Letter from Julia C. Lomas to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 1 November 1995:The Parliamentary Secretary has asked me to reply to you as part of the Lord Chancellor's Department's response to your Parliamentary Question, listed on 26 October 1995, regarding the 415W number of invoices from small businesses which were not paid within 30 days of receipt over the last five years.The Public Trust Office became an Executive Agency of the Lord Chancellor's Department on 1 July 1994, prior to which the departmental Headquarters maintained these records on our behalf. We have maintained our own records since becoming an Agency and one month sample of invoices are checked each year to establish how many were paid on time. For the monthly sample for 1994 of 129 invoices 109 (ie. 85%) were paid within terms. Whilst this figure excludes HMSO invoices it does not specifically refer to small businesses, to do so would be at disproportionate cost.
Letter from Sarah Tyacke to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 1 November 1995:I have been asked by the Lord Chancellor's Parliamentary Secretary to reply, in respect of the Public Record Office, to your question about the prompt payment of invoices due to small businesses.
The Public Record Office has not systematically recorded its performance in paying invoices nor which of its suppliers are small businesses, over the last five years. The answer to your question could therefore be supplied only at disproportionate cost.
In eight months of 1994–95, it monitored its performance in paying invoices and found that 98% were paid within 30 days.
Other occasional monitoring exercises over the last five years have produced similar results.
Letter from John Manthorpe to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 1 November 1995:I have been asked by the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, to reply to your recent question on the number of instances in which the Land Registry has failed to pay invoices to small businesses within 30 days in each of the last 5 years.
Records of the size of the supplier are not maintained and therefore I am able only to supply details of all late payments to both large and small businesses. These relate to credit periods up to and including 30 days. In the years 1993/94 and 1994/95 sampling indicated that the annual numbers of such payments were as follows:
In the majority of these cases, payment was delayed whilst verification was sought relating to queries on the invoices. Payment was effected once such queries were satisfied.
- 1993/94: 2019 (8 per cent.)
- 1994/95: 2954 (10 per cent.)
Details for the previous three years could be provided only at disproportionate cost.