PARLIAMENT: The House In Brief

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The Independent Online
Hope of bug-free 2000

PEOPLE SHOULD be able to enjoy New Year's Eve celebrations free from disruptions by the millennium bug, the Government said yesterday.

Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the Commons, told MPs there was no "identified risk of material disruption". However, she warned all essential service providers to "check and re-check" their systems and ensure they had contingency plans in place in case of the unexpected.

If electricity, gas, water or telephone systems failed between 31 December and 1 January it would have nothing to do with the bug, she said.

"Independent assessments show that all the key sectors and processes of the national infrastructure, such as utilities, emergency services, cash and food supplies, have now achieved `blue status', indicating that there is no identified risk of material disruption ... as a result of the bug."

Organ donation guide

GUIDELINES FOR voluntary organ donation will be issued early next year in response to scandals at hospitals in Bristol and Alder Hey, Liverpool, the Health minister John Hutton said. There would be a "tremendous shift" to emphasise transparency, sensitivity towards the bereaved and to include model consent forms.

Smokers want to quit

AT LEAST 70 per cent of smokers want to give up their habit, the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, said, launching England's biggest tobacco education campaign.

Dome is crowd puller

ABOUT 27.5 million overseas visitors will come to Britain in 2000, of whom 2.5 million are expected to visit the Millennium Dome, the Tourism minister Janet Anderson disclosed in a parliamentary written reply.

Embassy costs

THE COST of running British embassies in the US was more than pounds 20m last year, with the embassy in Washington DC costing pounds 14m, the Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said in a parliamentary written reply. In Europe, the most expensive to run was in France at more than pounds 8m followed by the embassies in Germany, Italy and Spain, whose cost came to more than pounds 5m each, Mr Hain added.

Today's agenda

Westminster Hall: 9.30am

Backbench debates on:

n Cabinet Office report - sharing the nation's prosperity

n Caribbean banana industry

n Access to financial services in rural areas

n Driving Standards Agency's approved driving instruction appeal system

n Teaching children with special educational needs

Commons: 2.30pm

n Cabinet Office questions, Prime Minister's questions

n Representation of the People Bill, committee

n Short backbench debate on child sex attacks

Lords: 2.30pm

n Debate on need for housing in the South-east in years to 2016

n Debate on the coal industry's future

n Debate on access to student loan scheme for those who have studied at British schools elsewhere in the European Union.

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