Jeremy Corbyn has declared "war" on late payments as part of a small business charm offensive

Mark Sands
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Corbyn will hit out over the "national scandal" of late payment to suppliers. (Source: Getty)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will today vow “war” on firms making late payments to their suppliers.

Speaking at the Federation of Small Businesses, Corbyn will accuse businesses of using their suppliers as a source of interest free capital.

“Some of the biggest names in business are holding cash piles that don’t actually belong to them. It’s a national scandal,” he will say.

Read More: Theresa May's government is failing to partner with small businesses

Corbyn will propose a new system of binding arbitration and fines for persistent late payers, and accuse firms including E.On, Capita, BT Group, Vodafone, National Grid and Marks & Spencer as being among the worst culprits.

He will accuse the firms pay suppliers on average between 72 and 119 days late.

However, the figures have been rejected by many of the firms cited by Corbyn, with M&S, BT and Vodafone and Capita all disputing Labour's numbers.

A Capita spokeswoman said: “We don’t recognise these figures whatsoever.”

National Grid and E.On did not respond to request for comment.

Read More: It’s time to turn to fintech to solve the late payment problem

Responding to Corbyn's support for small enterprises, Lib Dem Treasury spokeswoman Susan Kramer said the Labour leader “doesn't understand or respect” businesses.

“Most people who graft running small businesses would be terrified if Jeremy Corbyn ever got anywhere near Number 10,” she said.

Full Responses

BT - “We follow the principles of the government’s Prompt Payment Code and offer suppliers the opportunity to be paid early through the BT supplier finance scheme, which is one of the largest such schemes in the UK.

“During 2015/16 the average number of days between BT being invoiced and payment to UK suppliers was 54 days, well below the figures claimed in this report.”

Vodafone - “It is disappointing that this allegation has been made as it is just not representative of our payment practice. We take the prompt payment of suppliers incredibly seriously, particularly for our thousands of smaller suppliers, and have been signatories to the Prompt Payment Code since 2013. We currently pay 90 per cent of our invoices on time and, where this is not achieved, the most significant factor is receiving the invoices late from the supplier.”

Marks & Spencer - “We don’t recognise these numbers at all. Over 99 per cent of our supplier invoices are paid on time and we are signatories to the Prompt Payment Code.”

Capita - “We don’t recognise these figures whatsoever. Our aim is to pay all SMEs’ correct invoices within 30 days and we achieve this in the vast majority of cases.”

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