HC Deb 19 October 1999 vol 336 cc460-1W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement of progress on the millennium readiness of his Department's computer systems, and those for which it is responsible in the provision of public services; if contingency plans are in place; and what slippage has occurred since the July Quarterly report to the House. [93576]

Mr. Ingram

I refer the hon. Member to the quarterly statements made in the House by the President of the Council. These statements cover the whole of the United Kingdom. The President of the Council is due to make a further statement shortly to update the House on progress towards compliance. Information on the compliance situation in each Department is laid before the House each quarter and is published on the internet.

It may be useful to point out that we have six Departments in Northern Ireland which are responsible, through Agencies, for the delivery of all key sectors of the infrastructure, with the exception of electricity generation and distribution. Hence most of the key services in Northern Ireland are included in the quarterly monitoring process and the statements by the President of the Council. They are also subject to the independent assessment process along with the Electricity Services and the results are reported at the Northern Ireland Infrastructure Forum and the National Infrastructure Forum.

At the Northern Ireland Infrastructure Forum on 11 October the following services reported a Blue rating under the Action 2000 colour coding:

  • Water and Sewage
  • Housing
  • Roads
  • Health and Ambulance Service
  • Payment of Welfare
  • Fire Service
  • Police Service
  • Electricity and Gas
  • NICS Telecommunications
  • Education
  • Prisons.

The position on the remaining services are:

  • Rail and Buses—90% Blue with 100% Blue expected by mid October
  • Housing—52% Blue with 100% Blue expected by November
  • Local Government—77% Blue with 100% Blue expected by October.

I should point out that Local Government in Northern Ireland has a much smaller remit than in Great Britain, the key business areas being refuse collection and disposal, street cleansing, environmental health and registration of births, deaths and marriages.

Four of the core Northern Ireland Departments are all now reporting that they are fully compliant. The Department of Economic Development and the Department of Health and Social Services state that they will be compliant by end of October. Only one Department has shown slippage since the July statement to the House, i.e. the Northern Ireland Office.

The compliance of critical and non-critical communication and embedded systems in the Northern Ireland Office were completed in August 1999. A robust programme to combat slippage in the critical and non-critical IT systems is under way to ensure timely compliance.

The Business Continuity Plans and Millennium operating Regimes are being tested and independently assessed in accordance with Action 2000 guidance and an overall 100% Blue rating is expected by the end of October.

The results of the latest independent assessment of the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Sector will be announced at the next National Infrastructure Forum on 21 October.