My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for repeating the Statement, but I have to tell him that the Liberal Democrats have long campaigned to make the Prompt Payment Code mandatory. Given that, we welcome the new powers that the Government will give to the Small Business Commissioner to tackle late payments through fines and binding payment plans. There are also plans to make company boards accountable for supply chain payment practices, which I understand will be undertaken for the first time. Equally, we support the implementation of a new fund to encourage businesses to use technology to simplify invoicing payments and credit management.
We support these proposals but does the Minister feel that they will be sufficient to mollify the 97% of those who responded to the consultation with SMEs who complained that they had experienced late payments from their suppliers, especially as they felt that the situation had worsened over the past three years? Does he intend to make the Prompt Payment Code compulsory, as has already been suggested, for companies with more than 250 staff, and if not, why not? Will he undertake to ensure that future legislation will be robust and fine large companies that do not pay their suppliers within 30 days? Finally, does he accept that Brexit will cause real damage to SMEs through disruption to supply chains and punitive tariffs?