HC Deb 06 May 1999 vol 330 c1070
3. Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)

If he will make a statement on progress with the millennium readiness of computer systems in the private sector. [82359]

The Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry (Mr. Michael Wills)

On 4 March, Action 2000 published its fourth report on its state of the nation survey of millennium preparedness among United Kingdom businesses, which showed a continual improvement in terms of the readiness of their systems to cope with the end of century date change.

Mr. Atkinson

Does the Minister agree that, without total disclosure of their millennium compliance by all computer-dependent businesses, no one can say that the British economy will be safe after the end of this year? As the Government missed—indeed, objected tothe two opportunities that I offered them through my private Member's Bills to provide for such disclosure, can the Minister assure the House that British business will be millennium ready?

Mr. Wills

We are well aware of the keen interest that the hon. Gentleman has taken in the problem and we are grateful to him for it; he shows a commendable public spirit. However, we do not think that legislation such as he has suggested is necessary. We must be careful not to create bureaucratic requirements for companies to check things unnecessarily. Companies are subject to many pressures, of which the century date change is one, on their limited resources.

However, may I offer the hon. Gentleman some reassurance about the state of preparedness, especially in connection with the crucial infrastructure of this country? As he will be aware, the national infrastructure forum gave us the latest information from Action 2000 on 21 April, and it showed a considerable degree of readiness. He will be familiar with the colour coding of blue, amber and red. Blue indicates no identifiable risk of material disruption, and, if I may, briefly, with your indulgence, Madam Speaker, refer to the fact that in the—

Madam Speaker

Order. Perhaps that could be the subject of an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Wills

I am sorry, Madam Speaker.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is a high degree of readiness, and I am confident that there is no significant risk of disruption.

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