Late payments tsar to get tough, 'if need be'

‘Three strikes and you’re out’ seems to be the message that the newly appointed Small Business Commissioner is sending to big firms, on behalf of their often left out-of-pocket freelance suppliers.

Paul Uppal, appointed commissioner in October, used a Financial Times interview to talk of “cultural change”; a formal deal with big firms, ‘naming and shaming,’ but if late payment still pervades after these three attempts, then new regulations.

“Ultimately, if I don’t achieve this [an end to 120-day payment terms and other late paying practices], you are probably going to see legislation,” he told the newspaper.

“There is a cross party consensus on this. There is a political will for this to happen.”

Although his comments will reassure some – especially those who feared the ‘late payments tsar’ wouldn’t have teeth or be a “silver bullet”, new legislation to compel prompt payment is positioned by Mr Uppal as the last resort.

In fact, “cultural change rather than legislation” is his preference, as is big firms feeling “they can approach me” in answer to an invitation he has sent to discuss “a deal to end late payment.”

And then “we will name and shame if need be,” added the former Tory MP, who used to run his own company. “Big business has got a voice and is good at getting in front of government. I want to pull together small businesses.”

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