HC Deb 10 May 2000 vol 349 cc829-30
6. Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)

If she will make a statement on the progress with introducing information technology into government. [120440]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Graham Stringer)

On 31 March, we published "e-government"—a strategic framework for public services in the information age. Departments have been asked to set out their e-business strategies by October 2000, with the e-envoy reporting to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the contents and progress in December 2000.

Mr. Quinn

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. May I urge him in developing Government policy on the information age to have due regard to all those in our society who have difficulties and find information technology a challenge? May I also urge him to ensure that we make use of the possibilities of the new computer platforms that will be available in post offices, especially in rural and suburban communities?

Mr. Stringer

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. E-business and e-government are meant to provide an additional service, not to exclude anyone. While there is a demand for face-to-face meetings, the Government are committed to providing such services. The e-service is an additional service.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

In the distractions of last Thursday, we were unable to obtain a statement on the implications of the love bug computer virus, which is obviously important in the context of the Government's IT programme. Can we be assured that the work that is being done following on from realising the benefits of Y2K will take account of threats from such bugs? When will a statement be placed in the Library on the implications of that virus for government?

Mr. Stringer

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. What happened last Thursday with the love bug is being assessed in the Cabinet Office. When that assessment has taken place, it will be possible to make a full statement, except on security matters.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

Can the Minister tell us exactly when the love bug hit government technology; whether, as in the United States, the Government received any prior warning; and whether they warned business as a result of any such prior warning?

Mr. Stringer

There was no prior warning. The first time that the Cabinet Office knew about the love bug was on the morning of 4 May. We took immediate action, and because of the defences against viruses already in place in the Cabinet Office, less damage and destruction was done to the systems than otherwise would have been.