Name services with `bug' faults, say MPs

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The Independent Online
PUBLIC SERVICES still unprepared for the millennium bug should be named and shamed, according to MPs.

With less than five months to go, many services, including police forces and fire brigades, are still not ready for the possible computer problems linked to the date change, said the Commons all-party Public Accounts Select Committee.

Despite costly testing programmes, there were still no guarantees that there would not be disruption when 2000 dawned, the MPs concluded in a report published today. David Davis, the committee chairman, called for services that were not up to scratch to be exposed. "The public deserve to be told about the millennium-readiness of all providers of key services and it is essential that those bodies where there is still a risk of material disruption should be named," he said.

The committee expressed particular concern that the police and fire brigades were not as "far down the track as they should be". It also criticised delays by government bodies in getting ready for the change.

"Given that most central government bodies have been working on the millennium problem for two years or more, the committee is concerned that action to halt slippage was not taken at an earlier stage," it said.

The millennium threat arises because many computers record years by their last two digits only - for example, 99 for 1999. Thus, some computers could assume 00 means 1900 rather than 2000, causing them to produce meaningless information or fail completely.

Mr Davis said: "The nation has undertaken a significant and costly programme of work to eradicate the millennium bug. But with only four months to go it is a matter of concern that there is still much to be done to minimise the risks of material disruption to key services. It is also unsatisfactory that in some areas effective emergency plans have not been finalised."

Such plans should take into account the risk of bad weather and illness affecting staff dealing with any crises, he said.