The government’s target to pay invoices within 10 days is being missed by its own departments and agencies.

Last October the government asked all public bodies, including the NHS, to move as close as possible to the 10-day prompt payment code in a bid to protect small suppliers during the recession.

But last week an answer to a question in Parliament revealed the government was failing to meet the standard itself.

Over the last 12 months the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has only managed to pay half of its invoices within 10 days.

Its lowest point was in June last year when just 37 per cent were paid within the target time.

The only month the regulatory agency managed to pay more than 90 per cent of its invoices within the 10 days was March.

A spokeswoman said most of its suppliers were large organisations and that it deliberately prioritised those who had identified themselves as small to medium enterprises.

The Department of Health performed better, regularly managing to pay 98 per cent within 10 days - much better than the 87 per cent the Treasury managed in April and May this year.

DH payments within 10 days dipped to 78 per cent in February, but a spokesman said that was due to the introduction of a new IT system for claims.