HC Deb 09 December 1996 vol 287 cc4-5
3. Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the effect of the century date change on computer systems within the civil service. [6496]

The Paymaster General (Mr. David Willetts)

The effect of the century date change on computers is potentially a very serious issue for Government Departments, which we must address swiftly and thoroughly. A report from all Departments detailing the scope of the problem for each of them should be received in January. Every Department should have a costed plan in place by October 1997, and should have ensured full compliance of its systems, including testing, by December 1998.

Mr. Atkinson

I welcome my hon. Friend's assurance. Does he agree that it will not be enough to ensure that the Government's own computer systems will be millennium compliant? What is he doing to ensure that systems in the private sector, with which the Government's systems are connected, are also safe? Will he give full support on Wednesday next week to my ten-minute Companies (Millennium Computer Compliance) Bill to ensure that all business computer systems will be safe in three years' time?

Mr. Willetts

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his efforts to improve understanding of this important issue. However, although the subjects to which he referred will be covered in our review to prepare for the year 2000, the Government do not believe that a new statutory requirement on businesses would be the right way forward.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Have provisional figures been put on the cost of the necessary changes to computers by the millennium? Have the Government any idea what the cost will be? If so, have they built those costs into the Red Book projections?

Mr. Willetts

Departments are assessing the costs of the so-called millennium bug, and we expect them to have a fully costed programme to deal with the problem by October 1997. We cannot include costs when we do not yet know exactly what they will be.