Headlines: April 3rd, 1998

Concern about the potentially devastating effect of the Millennium Bug is growing as the Year 2000 gets closer. More evidence is emerging that the scale of the problem is much greater that earlier estimates showed. The fear is that many computers and chips embedded in a whole range of devices, such as traffic lights, will fail because they will be unable to recognise the date when the last two digits are 00. This concern has triggered action across public service.A new Year 2000 team headed by Mandy Mayer from the Communications and Information Industries Directorate at the DTI has been set up to co-ordinate the action being taken by the responsible Government Departments. It will ensure that the right questions are asked, and action is driven forward, across the national infrastructure as a whole. The team been drawn from other government departments to ensure maximum expertise and will be part of the Central IT Unit. It will draw on private sector experience.

In a separate initiative Ernst & Young have been commissioned to define and map essential public services. They will report to the Cabinet Committee responsible for Millennium Bug problems. This will allow the Committee to ensure that as far as possible these services will not be materially disrupted by problems associated with the Millennium Date Change.

Action is also being taken in the health service and in local government. NHS organisations have to report to the Department of Health on their plans and budget for dealing with the year 2000 problem. Local authorities have been asked by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott and Sir Jeremy Beecham, the Chairman of the Local Government Association, to set up a working group in their area covering emergency services and utilities.