2000 Bug `army' needs conscripts

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR'S "Bugbuster" project, launched in a blaze of publicity to train an army of 20,000 computer experts to tackle the Millennium problem, at a cost of pounds 26m, has hit its own bug.

It emerged last night that the scheme, intended to instruct troubleshooters on how to deal with the effects of the change of date at the end of 1999, had so far trained just 26 people.

People are being offered grants of pounds 1,300 each for computer training to tackle the bug through training and enterprise councils across the country. It was launched in March but the Department of Education and Employment which is running the programme said it really only got going in July.

"A lot of small firms were on holiday in August. Now we are in September, we will get more people joining and achieve our target in the next six months", said a spokesman.

Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the House, has overall responsibility for the Government's drive to tackle the Millennium Bug.

Robin Guenier, director of independent campaign group Taskforce 2000, called the entire Bugbuster scheme "ill-conceived, badly-administered and poorly-led. The whole thing is in disarray".

The cross-party Commons Public Accounts Committee warned in July that lives could be at risk. It reported that the NHS was failing to get to grips with the Millennium Bug.