§ Mrs. Roche
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what percentage of bills were paid late by his Department in 1995–96; 
(2) how much was paid late to the private sector for goods and services by his Department in 1995–96. 
§ Mr. Soames
This is a matter for the chief executive of the Defence Bills Agency, the Met Office and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the chief executives to write to the hon. Member.163W
Information across Government on what percentage of bills were paid late by Departments in 1995–96 is being collated by the Department of Trade and Industry and will be published by my tight hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade before the summer recess.
Letter from T. R. Thurgate to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 24 April 1996:You asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what percentage of bills were paid late by his Department in 1995/96, and how much was paid late to the private sector for goods and services by his Department in 1995/96. As this matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief Executive of the Defence Bills Agency I have been asked to reply.We monitor our prompt payment performances closely. Of the 3.1m bills paid by the Defence Bills Agency in 1995/96, less than 0.1% were not paid within thirty days of receipt at Liverpool.The payment performance statistics which are readily available are held by volume of bills, not value, and are not split between private and public sector, therefore the amount of money paid late to the private sector for goods and services in 1995/96 could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Letter from J. C. R. Hunt to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 24 April 1996:I am replying to your question to the Secretary of State for Defence about late payment of bills by the Meteorological Office as this matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief Executive.On 1 April 1995 the Office took over responsibility for paying most of its bills. Since that date we have paid 100% of our bills within the target of settlement no later than 30 days after the invoice has been validated and passed for payment.Our payment procedures make no distinction between the public and private sectors.I hope this information is helpful.
Letter from John Chisholm to Mrs. Barbara Roche, dated 24 April 1996:The Secretary of State for Defence has asked me as Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation & Research Agency to reply to your questions about the percentage of bills that were paid late by this Agency in 1995/96 and what percentage of these were paid late to the private sector.As I said in my letter to you of 1 November 1995, we define late payment as not paying bills within 30 days of receipt of a validated invoice at our bill paying section. On this basis, virtually all DERA's 285, 642 bills paid in 1995/96 were paid within the 30 day period. We keep a lot of data on bill paying, as an aid to improving our performance, but I am afraid we do not keep statistics on those very few bills that fell outside of this target.Nor do we keep our statistics in a way which allows us to differentiate readily between bills paid to the private sector and those paid to other areas. I regret, therefore, that the information to answer your second question is not available without incurring disproportionate costs.