HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 cc183-5W
Ms Moran

To ask the President of the Council if she will make a statement on progress in dealing with the Millennium bug. [99724]

Mrs. Beckett

I am pleased to update Members with the results of the November monthly review of progress in tackling the Millennium bug across Government. The completed questionnaires will all be placed in the Libraries of the House and published on the internet as normal. This report follows on from my statement to the House on 28 October. I am also reporting on preparedness across the national infrastructure, including key services delivered by the wider public sector.

Central Government

I am delighted to report that work on business critical systems is now complete in all Government Departments and Agencies with one exception. This means that systems have been fixed, tested and successfully put back into operation.

The MOD has completed over 99 per cent. of work on its critical systems. Although there has been a small slippage within part of MOD's complex programme, this has been offset by progress elsewhere, and its critical systems are now predicted to be completed by the end of November. In any event robust and tested contingency plans are in place to maintain defence capability.

Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and Millennium Operating Regimes (MORs) are essential safeguards against the impact of unforseen bug failures and the other particular pressures of the Millennium holiday period. I am pleased to say that all Departments and Agencies now have robust and tested BCPs and MORs in place.

I reported, in my last statement, that as part of the Central Government MOR, Government and the key infrastructure providers would be testing proposed information flows. Exercise Herald took place on 26 October and showed that the structures being put in place are robust. The exercise also identified some areas for further development. These lessons are being factored into the Central Government MOR.

The Wider National Infrastructure

Independent assessments of the readiness of the national infrastructure with respect to Y2K compliance and business continuity planning have been undertaken as part of the National Infrastructure assessment project run by Action 2000. Organisations within the programme are also required to have millennium operating regimes in place.

In my last statement to the House, I reported that all but a very few areas of the national infrastructure were rated as 100 per cent. Blue—this means that independent assessors have not identified any risk of material disruption as a result of their full assessment, and that the public can expect a normal service. These sectors included utilities such as electricity and water, as well as police, fire, telecommunications and healthcare. I am pleased to report that those few organisations which were not then blue have now achieved blue status. This included various local authorities in Northern Ireland, gas shippers and suppliers, Scottish Islands transport, seven medium-impact financial institutions, Housing Associations in England, and Manchester Metrolink light railway. The UK infrastructure is therefore now 100 per cent. blue.


While the UK remains one of the world leaders in tackling the Millennium bug, the Government has also been proactive in offering financial and technical assistance to other countries, both bilaterally and through international organisations such as the World Bank Info Dev fund and the International Year 2000 Co-operation Centre (IY2KCC). The £10 million we gave to the Info Dev fund to assist Year 2000 work in-less developed countries remains the largest single donation. The MOD has been proactive in raising awareness of defence aspects of the Year 2000 problem and exchanging relevant information.


Although almost all testing across government and the national infrastructure is now complete, the possibility of failures, however low, still remains. With less than 40 days to the Millennium, we cannot rest on our laurels. To address any remaining or unforeseen risks, we are asking all providers of key services—including government departments—to keep their business continuity plans under review so they can continue to deliver essential services come what may.

There has been a vast amount of work in the UK to prepare for the Millennium bug—indeed the UK is generally acknowledged to be among the front rank in the world in terms of readiness. We have less information about other countries, so cannot be confident that the rest of the world will be ready. We can only prepare against potential disruption and make contingency plans to minimise any impact.

The Government will continue to lead by example and be open and transparent. I will make a final report for 1999 to the House in December by way of an oral statement.

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