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Labour backs Taskforce 2000

Labour would continue to fund Taskforce 2000, the Government-sponsored body created to publicise the millennium computer timebomb, if the party won power in the election, a spokesman confirmed.

The news comes as the Department of Trade and Industry, which set up Taskforce 2000, is believed to have offered short-term funds to help the body over its cash crisis. Public funding for the group, run by computer consultant Robin Guenier, officially ran out on Sunday, though the DTI is understood to have committed an extra pounds 80,000 to keep it going over the election period.

Taskforce 2000 was set up last year after the intervention of Ian Taylor, Minister for Science and Technology, who has campaigned to get the problem more widely understood. The DTI provided a pounds 170,000 grant, while commercial donors paid about pounds 90,000. Most of the cash has gone on the Taskforce's publicity campaigns.

Geoffrey Hoon, Labour's telecommunications and science spokesman, said the party had agreed to continue funding the taskforce. He said the commitment involved a "tiny" sum of money and did not raise public spending issues.

The taskforce has five staff, including two secretarial workers on a free loan from a private donor. The other two are consultants - one on secondment from the DTI and another from the computing group EDS. Only Mr Guenier's salary is paid from the mixture of public and private grants.

Labour's decision is likely to be greeted with huge relief in the computer world. Experts have predicted chaos across industry and commerce at the millennium because most computers cannot cope with the date change. Almost all computer programmes can only recognise two digits of the year and may cease to function when the date changes to 2000.