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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 22 November 1995

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Attorney-General what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [934]

The Attorney-General: The information available for the Law Officers' Departments is as follows:

Over recent sample periods the average time between receipt of a valid invoice and payment was 17 days for the Serious Fraud Office, and 35 days for the Treasury Solicitor's Department. The Government Property Lawyers process all claims within five days.

The Crown Prosecution Service pays over 80 per cent. of witness expense claims within 10 working days.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Attorney-General how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [951]

The Attorney-General: The Departments for which I am responsible make every effort to settle invoices promptly and in accordance with the requirements published in Government Accounting. Information about those Department's payment practices is published in the annual departmental report of the Lord Chancellor's and Law Officer's Departments.

In addition, the performance of the Crown Prosecution Service against its target of paying claims for witness expenses within 10 working days is published in its statutory annual report.

Invitations to tender issued by the Treasury Solicitor's Department also contain a reference to the effect that payment will be made within 30 days of receipt of a valid invoice.

The Government Property Lawyers publish details of payment policy in the annual report and accounts.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [961]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The Department's general conditions of contract contain a clause informing suppliers that we shall make a payment within agreed terms, or within 30 days of receipt of an invoice, where no such terms exist. The conditions also give advice on how to complain if the Department fails to make payment on time. Annual surveys of invoice payments are carried out,

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the latest of which showed that 93.9 per cent. of invoices were paid on time. A further survey is being carried out of invoices authorised for payment during the month of November. The survey results, together with details of the Department's payment policies, are published in the Department's annual report.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [927]

Mr. Taylor: The information required to answer the question is not recorded centrally. An examination of the procedures for paying invoices throughout the Department has shown that, on average, invoices are paid within seven days of receipt.

Lockerbie

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many officials of his Department are part-time involved in legal matters relating to the destruction of the airliner Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. [1630]

Mr. John M. Taylor: None.

Antarctic Minerals

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department for what reasons the Antarctic Minerals Act 1989 has not fully been brought into force; and when he intends to fully bring it into force. [196]

Sir Nicholas Bonsor: I have been asked to reply.

The Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (CRAMRA) has, in effect, been superseded by the 1991 environmental protocol to the Antarctic treaty. Provisions to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the protocol were included in Antarctic Act 1994. The Act also repealed the Antarctic Minerals Act 1989, except for provisions relating only to the administration of justice for the British Antarctic Territory.

TREASURY

Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the amount owed to those businesses whose invoices were not paid within 30 days of receipt or in accordance with contractual agreements in each of the last five years. [1117]

Mrs. Angela Knight: Records of the promptness of payment for the past five years are not maintained. Over the past three years, the amount owed to businesses whose invoices were not paid within 30 days of receipt was:


The majority of the invoices to which the sums above relate were delayed due to problems associated with the particular suppliers such as an error in the invoice or failure to deliver the goods or service.

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Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many (i) orders and (ii) firms are represented by the 18 per cent. of invoices not paid by his Department within 30 days or in accordance with contractual agreements in 1994-95; how many of those are related to firms with fewer than 500 employees. [912]

Mrs. Knight: The number of (i) orders and (ii) firms represented by the 18 per cent. of invoices not paid within 30 days is shown in the table:


These figures include invoices which were delayed due to problems associated with the particular suppliers such as an error in the invoice or failure to deliver the goods or service.

The Treasury does not distinguish between different sizes of suppliers. Information on how many of those invoices relate to firms with fewer than 500 employees is not available.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [919]

Mrs. Knight: The average number of days taken to pay invoices is 23 days from date of receipt.

This includes invoices which were delayed due to problems associated with the particular suppliers such as an error in the invoice or failure to deliver the goods or service.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [969]

Mrs. Knight: Departmental payment performance figures are published annually within the Chancellor of the Exchequer's departmental report. Figures are given showing the percentage of invoices paid within 30 days of receipt of an invoice or within the payment period specified in a contract if different.

Alcohol and Tobacco (Cross-border Trade)

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the present estimated annual value of revenue lost to the Exchequer because of illicit cross-border trade in alcoholic and tobacco products. [80]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: By its nature, the scale of illicit cross-border trade in alcohol and tobacco is very difficult to assess. Reliable figures are not available. Officials are working closely with United Kingdom trade representatives to determine whether a satisfactory method of estimating the value of this trade can be developed.

European Monetary Institute

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) who represents Britain on the European Monetary Institute; whose policy they articulate; whom they report to; and what is their brief in respect of monetary union; [1101]

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Mrs. Angela Knight: In accordance with the terms of article 109f of the EC Treaty, and article 1 of the protocol on the statute of the European Monetary Institute annexed to the treaty, the Bank of England is a member of the EMI, and the Governor of the Bank of England is a member of the EMI's council. Active participation by the Governor on the council of the EMI is in accordance with the Government's policy of full involvement in preparations for economic and monetary union, which the Government believe is necessary to protect our interest whether or not the UK participates in the single currency.

Monetary Union

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what obligations are imposed on the United Kingdom and what changes have to be made to British economic policy to allow the United Kingdom to qualify for monetary union and to take Her Majesty's Government to the point at which it can decide to enter monetary union or not. [1106]

Mrs. Angela Knight: The Council, meeting in the composition of Heads of State and Government, will decide for each member state whether it fulfils the necessary conditions for the adoption of a single currency, in accordance with the provisions of article 109j of the EC treaty and protocol No. 6 on the convergence criteria. Protocol No. 11, annexed to the EC treaty, means that the United Kingdom shall not be obliged or committed to move to the third stage of economic union without a separate decision to do so by the Government and Parliament. We will agree to take part in a single currency only if it is in our national interest to do so, given the circumstances at the time. The Government's economic policies aim to bear down on inflation and ensure sound public finances. These policies make good economic sense and are entirely consistent with the convergence criteria.


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