§ Mr. David Atkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what contingency plans her Department is making in the event of the failure of computer systems to recognise the year 2000; when she expects them to be in place, and tested; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Keith Bradley
All compliance activity on Departmental systems has been phased to ensure that they are dealt with in priority order relative to their importance to the Department's business.
The major systems (which are key to the payment of benefits and pensions) are designed to hold dates in a format unaffected by the turn of the century. The Department is on target against its published plans to achieve year 2000 compliance of these systems, and expects all will be confirmed as compliant before the end of 1998. The first part of our contingency is that this allows for a full year's running before 2000.
The Department expects to complete the programme of work to upgrade or replace business critical desktop computer systems by the end of March 1999. This target allows adequate contingency before the dates these systems might otherwise fail.
We have a range of plans to support the continuity of Social Security operations and are working closely with the Central IT Unit, other departments and Action 2000 to identify and if necessary deal with specific Year 2000 related threats. It is anticipated that all work on business continuity will be complete by March 1999. However, even beyond this date, we will continue to assess the potential impact of residual risks arising from external factors, over which we have no direct control e.g. electricity supply: for Year 2000 we will continue to update plans and if necessary to take action as more and better intelligence becomes available.