HC Deb 21 April 1998 vol 310 cc582-3
5. Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

What plans he has made to ensure that computer systems used by the emergency services in Scotland will be millennium compliant. [37617]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Sam Galbraith)

In common with all NHS bodies in Scotland, the Scottish ambulance service has a strategy in place to tackle year 2000 computer date problems and is working to ensure the compliance of all critical systems by December 1998.

Mr. Blunt

I do not think that the House will be reassured by the vague nature of that answer. Can the Minister guarantee that all computer systems in the emergency services will be millennium compliant? Particularly in the light of yesterday's report in The Scotsman that up to 1,000 patients could die and that up to three quarters of Scotland's NHS trusts say that they will not have enough money to deal with the problem, will he guarantee that no one will die because the Scottish Office has invested insufficient resources?

Mr. Galbraith

I can confirm everything that the hon. Gentleman said. I can guarantee that all critical systems will be compliant by the end of this year—a year ahead of the deadline—and that no one will suffer because of a lack of resources.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Although the answer has come from the Health Minister, the question related to emergency services. Can the Minister give an idea of the likely cost to all public services in Scotland? Has he secured satisfactory guarantees from the power generating system that there will not be critical failures? The Prime Minister has estimated the cost as £3 billion; private estimates are £6 billion. What will be the cost to the Scottish Office?

Mr. Galbraith

The final figures are not yet available as the returns had to be made by 31 March and we are still looking at them. We shall soon be in a position to provide definitive answers. However, we are monitoring the costs and we shall be able to meet them within the budget.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

It is a rather quaint idea that the ambulance service is the only emergency service in Scotland. Leaving that aside, are the Minister and his colleagues in the Scottish Office satisfied that the air traffic control system at Prestwick will be millennium compliant? What investigations are they making to ensure that?

Mr. Galbraith

The terms that apply to the Scottish ambulance service apply also to all emergency services, including the fire brigade and the police. As for air traffic control services, as someone of the right hon. Gentleman's standing and long service in the House should be aware, that is not a matter for me, but I shall pass it on to the Minister responsible.