Michael Fallon has written to all FTSE 100 and 250 companies telling them that if they don’t adopt the code by the new year, he will publicise their refusal.

Construction companies which have yet to sign up include Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt, Carillion, Kier and Wolseley.

The only FTSE 250 building business that has signed up so far is Balfour Beatty.

"Too many of our biggest companies are ignoring the Prompt Payment Code," said Mr Fallon. "My message to them is clear: make prompt payment a priority or face the consequences of being named."

British Woodworking Federation chief executive Iain McIlwee welcomed the minister’s announcement, but said the joinery sector would like to see words backed up with action.

"It’s the right direction of travel, but the question is whether it will make much difference if it’s not supported with some form of sanctions – and the government isn’t saying it won’t place contracts with the companies it identifies," he said. "Whether naming and shaming these big contractors alone will mean much to them is open to question. After all, we all already know who they are – I could name 10 off the top of my head."

He said that big contractors were in a position to hold suppliers, including joinery companies, to ransom through late payment, and the problem in public sector construction was as serious as anywhere.

"There are estimates that 85% of companies in public sector projects don’t get paid by prime contractors within 30 days," he said. "So we don’t need gesture politics, we need action."

It was reported that late payment contributed to the recent collapse of two joinery companies, SHN and Kestrel (TTJ 27 October/November 3). One source said that the latter was also hit by customers cancelling cheques for delivered product when the company ran into trouble.