Politics: Millennium bug - Campaign aims to calm fears over Year 2000

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The Independent Online
FOREIGN AIRLINES that are not protected against the millennium bug will be barred from flying in to or out of the UK, the Government said yesterday.

The tough approach to air travel was outlined in a new booklet unveiled by ministers in a drive to calm public fears about the computer date change problem.

Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House of Commons and chief minister with responsibility for the millennium bug, told The Independent that air safety for travellers was a priority for the campaign.

Mrs Beckett said that the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will refuse permits and licences from any airlines that could not guarantee passenger safety.

A list of foreign airlines behind schedule on Year 2000 compliance will be published in July and the department will publish information about foreign airports later in the year.

However, the booklet unveiled yesterday aims to banish some of the myths about the millennium bug and warns the public to ignore stories about "apocalypse" and "meltdown".

It will form the centrepiece of a new pounds 5m television and newspaper campaign aimed at reassuring the public that it need not panic about shortages of food or cash on 31 December.

The "Facts not Fiction" campaign, which will be fronted by the television presenter Nick Ross, spells out how television sets, home computers and video recorders may, or may not, be affected.

"A few things might go wrong come the millennium, but not very serious things," Mr Ross said.

"The message is that you don't need to fill the bath up with water, or draw all your money out of the bank."

Mrs Beckett said the campaign was designed to "increase people's understanding of what might happen at the millennium date change, and show what the potential impact might be".

Copies of the new booklet will be inserted in this weekend's Sunday newspapers, and next week's television guide magazines. It will also be available from post offices.