Redwood calls for `timebomb' action

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John Redwood, the Tory trade and industry spokesman, yesterday called for Tony Blair to intervene and put more government money into defusing the computer "timebomb" set for the year 2000.

Mr Redwood accused the Government of passing the buck over the issue in a letter to the Prime Minister following the disclosures in The Independent that the head of a taskforce feared not enough was being done. "Action needs to be taken now to ensure all computer systems work smoothly at the beginning of the year 2000," Mr Redwood said. "Money for this task should become from within the [Department of Trade and Industry] budget. There are many areas which could be trimmed."

Last week, Barbara Roche, the DTI minister handling the issue, denied government inaction, but Mr Redwood said: "We have discovered that the matter has been passed from Margaret Beckett to John Battle and from him to Barbara Roche; that the DTI seems keen to transfer responsibility to the Cabinet Office but the Cabinet Office is not responsible for making British business generally aware of the scale and urgency of the problem. The Independent ... has established that the Government has committed very little staff or money to what is an enormous problem facing the British economy."