HC Deb 08 April 1998 vol 310 cc349-51W
Mr. Randall

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions she has held with EU partners in relation to the problems associated with millennium computer compliance. [25357]

Mrs. Beckett

[holding answer 4 February 1998]: The Millennium Bug was discussed at the Tele-communications Council on 26 February and the Internal Market Council on 30 March and will continue to be discussed in the Council of Ministers at all suitable opportunities. My Department is also organising a high level Presidency conference in London on 8 May for Millennium Bug experts from all Member States. the Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry has raised the issue in meetings with her French, German and Swedish counterparts and will continue to do so in meetings with her EU colleagues as the opportunity arises.

Mr. Redwood

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations she has received in the last fortnight about the Millennium Bug Hotline. [32682]

Mrs. Beckett

[holding answer 3 March 1998]: None.

Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will pass questions tabled to her Department regarding Action 2000 to Action 2000; and if she will request them to reply to hon. Members. [29747]

Mrs. Roche

My practice is to consult Action 2000 on Questions which relate to their activities before replying.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will introduce measures to regulate the charging activities of consultancies that market services for dealing with millennium compliance. [38530]

Mrs. Roche

I have no plans to do this. Action 2000 and the Business Links are tasked with signposting businesses to the best available help.

Mrs. Gillan

To ask the President of the Board of Trade when she estimates the regulators for gas, water, telecommunications and electricity will confirm that their utilities will be millennium compliant; and if she will make a statement. [37489]

Mrs. Roche

[holding answer 2 April 1998]: Ofgas is already monitoring the preparations which members of the gas industry are making to ensure millennium compliance. Reports received to date indicate that most companies will have achieved millennium compliance for critical systems by January 1999. Ofgas will be following-up shortly with the remaining gas companies who have not yet responded.

Ofwat can confirm that it expects water and water and sewerage companies to be millennium compliant. It has required all companies to supply details of their plans to achieve compliance before 1 January 2000. It intends to hold a seminar with the companies shortly to discuss the issues, including contingency plans. In addition, it will be visiting a number of companies.

Oftel is satisfied that most network operators are making adequate preparations and Oftel is continuing to take an active role in monitoring these preparations. Most operators plan to confirm that their equipment is millennium compliant in the first half of 1998. Oftel plan to write to all operators again in June to get an update on progress.

Offer recently wrote to all licensees and other bodies in the electricity supply industry to seek information about their approach to the millennium issue. They wish to ensure that IT problems will not significantly affect electricity supplies. A reply by 30 April was requested.

Dr. Kumar

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on progress to date made by the Action 2000 group and their programme for the next six months. [32285]

Mrs. Roche

On 22 January 1998, Don Cruickshank, Chairman of Action 2000, launched the Millennium Bug campaign. the initial activities included: promoting the importance of the issue and sign posting help, identifying practical help and guidance, investigating measures to redress the current shortage of IT skilled people, making available information on tools and services, assessing the current extent of the problem and monitoring progress.

On 26 February the Chairman announced a second programme of action, which includes specific advice on embedded systems, advising on product compliance and software testing, and producing a set of Millennium case studies.

Action 2000's outline plan for the coming months includes: updating and improving the Hotline service, website and Information material, working with the Departments for Education and Employment and Trade and Industry on the Training for 20,000 "Bug Fixers" as announced by the Prime Minister on 30 March 1998, Official Report, columns 374–76, providing a toolkit to help Business Links work with businesses, implementing a programme of training for the Personal Business Advisers and Special Advisers in Business Links and their equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, developing a database of information on software support contractors and available diagnostic packages, developing a questionnaire and benchmarking process acceptable across all business sectors, implementing a communications programme to ensure all business are made aware of the significance of the problem and sign-posting sources of help, and, participating in a project to identify the particular risks across the public sector.

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