Slow payers are now under a belated scrutiny. Here we examine the best and worst.
Who's money is it, anyway? Who's a naughty boy, then? Who doesn't pay his bills, but keeps his creditors waiting and waiting ... and waiting? It won't do, you know. Everyone says so. There was Norman Lamont, our Chancellor, using his Budget speech to carry on about the problem that angers small businesses more than any other. "I have every sympathy for small companies who find that their larger debtors are deliberately delaying payment to boost their own cashflow. Such practices", Lamont added acidly, "are wholly deplorable." Quite.
British governments have fought shy about legislating against delayed payment of debts. But the Labour Party came out in favour of stern measures - by, among other things, giving the Office of Fair Trading powers to move against slow payers. The Tories have also promised action of a kind. Larger companies (how large are they, one wonders) will be required to reveal how long it takes them to pay up. And anyone hoping for a government contract would be wise to pay his subcontractors on the nail - well, within 30 days as a rule.