§ Charles Clarke [holding answer 2 March 2004]
The Computers Within Reach Scheme closed on 31 October 2001 having delivered over 24,000 recycled computers to people in 22 pilot areas, at a cost of 1001W £7.1 million over two years. Those eligible were in receipt of certain working age benefits or a State Pension with minimum income guarantee.
An evaluation was conducted, and copies have been placed in the House of Commons Library. The report highlighted a number of difficulties. In view of these difficulties, we considered carefully whether to repeat the scheme against alternatives that might provide more effective access to ICT and learning opportunities for those currently without access.
At the time it was decided to channel the remaining £7.9 million into purchasing wireless technology equipment and laptops for Adult and Community Learning Centres serving deprived wards around the country.
There are no current plans to initiate any similar projects.
Each individual who received a refurbished computer from one of the contracted suppliers would as part of the agreement receive a one year warranty with the machine. All costs for maintenance and upgrades would then fall to the owner when the years warranty expired.