HC Deb 30 June 1998 vol 315 cc136-7W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the summits and EU ministerial meetings over which the United Kingdom has presided in 1998; what discussions on the millennium compliance of computer systems took place at each; and if he will make a statement on the initiatives that were decided on. [46646]

The Prime Minister

A list of the Councils being held under the UK's Presidency of the European Union was deposited in the Library of the House earlier this year. The UK has also presided over the G8 Summit and Foreign Ministers' meetings, and the Asia-Europe summit.

The Government attach great importance to tackling the Millennium Bug problem. They have worked hard to raise awareness in each of these fora and to encourage practical action. In the EU, we ensured the issue was addressed in a wide range of relevant fora: we raised it for instance at the Telecoms Councils on 26 February and 19 May, the Internal Market Council on 30 March, the Industry Council on 7 May, and at the European Conference on 12 March. We organised a major conference in London on 8 May to draw attention to the Bug's cross-border implications and to encourage the sharing of best practice among member states. We also raised the issue at the Cardiff European Council. The Conclusions of the Council include a call for effective national compliance programmes and for a further progress report to the Vienna Summit in December.

At the 3–4 April Asia Europe Meeting, leaders highlighted the importance of international co-operation to ensure millennium compliance, particularly where failures would cause social and economic dislocation.

At their 15–17 May Birmingham Summit, G8 leaders recognised the seriousness of the threat posed by the Millennium Bug. The G8 communique agreed to take urgent action and to share information, among ourselves and with others, that would assist in preventing disruption in the near and longer term. The G8 would work closely with business and organisations working in those sectors, who would bear much of the responsibility to address the problem. The G8 would work together in international organisations, such as the World Bank to assist developing countries, and the OECD, to help solve this critical technological problem and prepare for the year 2000. Heads agreed that G8 officials should meet to pursue the issue. I announced that the UK was giving £10 million to the World Bank Trust Fund to help poorer developing countries develop strategies to combat the problem.