organisations facing the millennium bug problem to publish their
plans for dealing with it. This would demonstrate they were taking
the issue seriously, and be reassuring for the public.
tackling the millennium bug, Dr Clark said that most departmental
plans had remained stable. Progress had been made in correcting
business-critical IT systems and many departments had made inroads
into non-critical systems. It was now possible to identify targeted
qAdates of business critical systems. A few showed dates uncomfortably
close to the end of 1999, but these did not involve organisations
providing services to the public.
Dr Clark said that the total cost estimate based on department plans
had increased only slightly from£393m to£402m. Costs
would continue to be monitored closely, and departments expected to
meet them from existing IT budgets. Operative budgets were not
expected to be affected and only a minority of returns indicated that
it had been necessary to reallocate funds from other budgets.
For the first time, Dr Clark's review incorporated reports from
bodies and organisations within the wider public sector. A summary
of these had been published. Commenting on the summary, Dr Clark
'The quality and depth of the information provided in the summary
varies, but the responses show that all the organisations covered are
aware of the problem and taking action. Some of these organisations
are small and the century date change has few implications for them.
'Others are critical to ensuring the continuation of key public
services over the millennium, such as the NHS and local authorities.
They need to re-assure the public that they will be able to do carry
out their functions satisfactorily. Ministers and I will be paying
particular attention to monitoring progress in these key areas and
reporting to the house regularly. The best way to re-assure us all is
for the bodies themselves to keep the public informed of their
Dr Clark's review has produced seven immediate action points. He
- write to all ministers indicating problems the survey revealed, and
warning against complacency. He would stress again the problems of
- ask all departments and agencies to continue to press for
information about product compliance from suppliers
- follow up individually issues of slippage and of insufficient
- monitor closely what departments are doing about risk assessment
and business continuity
- consider with ministers the mechanisms for monitoring and
reporting on the wider public sector, and about contingency planning
- call on all public sector organisations to make information about
the millennium bug programmes public
- report back to the house on the results of the next quarterly
A full text of Dr Clark's statement is attached.
'I should like to make a statement reviewing progress on tackling the millennium computer problem within central government and the wider public sector.
Since my last report to the house on 3 March, I have conducted a
further round of enquiries on government departments and their
agencies and I am now also able to give a picture of progress in the
wider public sector. I am arranging for the completed questionnaires
received from departments in May, and summaries of them and their
reports on wider public sector bodies, to be placed in the libraries
of the house and published on the Internet.
Overall, departments' plans have remained stable since the March
review and very little change in scope has been found necessary. We
can now identify target dates for business critical systems. Most of
the returns show progress in correcting business critical IT systems.
A few show dates uncomfortably close to the end of 1999, though they
do not involve organisations that provide services direct to the
public. The overall target dates and the completion dates for
non-critical systems have moved by a larger margin. There are still
cases where testing seems to have started without a sufficiently
defined strategy and some plans still contain too little information
about embedded systems and telecommunication systems. I am following
up these issues with the departments concerned.
The majority of returns have shown little or no change in the overall
cost estimates. Departments are now firming up their estimates and
while some previously small estimates have increased significantly,
the overall costs have increased only slightly - now£402m, compared with£393m in the last round. Departments expect to meet these costs from their existing IT budgets and only a minority of returns indicated that it has been necessary to reallocate funds from other budgets. We do not expect operational budgets to be affected.
A majority of the returns indicated that departments and agencies
feel they have adequate skills to undertake the work, although there
is a heavy reliance on outsourcing and consultants. Although about a
third of returns stated that shortages of skilled staff could impact
on their year 2000 programmes. None of the departments reports
significant loss of skilled staff due to the millennium problem, and
where skilled staff turnover is normally high, there appears to be no
difficulty in recruiting new staff. Most of the organisations
reporting difficulties generally are small agencies but ministry of
defence and northern Ireland office also reported that difficulties
were being encountered in some areas.
The returns highlight that a number of departments and agencies are
still experiencing difficulties in securing responses from IT
suppliers about product compliance. I am asking all Departments and
agencies to continue to press for this information.
The returns indicate that many of the major departments have
conducted a full risk assessment and have developed business
continuity plans. This is a critical issue for all departments, and
ministers and I will be monitoring this closely.
In response to the concerns expressed in this house, the prime
minister has extended the remit of the Ministerial group on the
Millennium Date Change, which I chair, to include the wider public
sector. It is, of course, the responsibility of the chief executives
of these quangos, authorities and trusts to take effective and timely
action in relation to the date change problem so as to ensure that
there is no material disruption to the services which they provide
and that appropriate contingency plans are in place.
Nevertheless, it is a matter of concern to this house that the public
sector as a whole continues to operate effectively after the date
change and the ministerial group will take a close interest in the
progress being made there. Ministers have been in touch for some time
with key organisations which they sponsor to emphasise the importance
of tackling the date change problem and to help with advice and
support. I have asked them to report on these organisations and I
have placed a summary of their responses in the libraries of the
house and on the internet. I am also encouraging all non-departmental
public bodies, organisations and other bodies in the wider public
sector to publish their plans for millennium compliance.
The quality of the responses varies. They do show that all the
organisations covered are aware of the problem and are taking action,
but there is clearly still a long way to go before we have a complete
picture. Some of these organisations are small and the century date
change has few if any implications for them. But others are critical
to ensuring a satisfactory continuation of key public services over
the millennium, such as the national health service and local
authorities and they will need to re-assure the public that they will
be able to do so. The NAO report published last month stated that the
framework for managing the remedial process in the NHS is in place
but that tight control is needed to ensure success. I welcome the NHS
executive's statement that the millennium date change problem is its
top non-clinical priority and I expect other wider public sector
bodies also to treat this as a priority matter. There is not a great
deal of time left to put systems in place if progress has so far been
Ministers and I will be paying particular attention to monitoring
progress in these key areas and reporting to the house regularly. The
best way to re-assure us all is for the bodies themselves to keep the
public informed of their plans.
The importance of the Year 2000 issue is also widely recognised in
the European Union. At the meeting of EU Ministers for Public
Administration at Lancaster House on 20 May, ministers agreed to
review progress at the next meeting in Vienna and to exchange
information on the action that governments were taking to help ensure
continuity of operations in public and private sectors. They invited
me to take the lead and, I have today started the process by sending
the UK's contribution to this exercise to my European colleagues.
A new team has been formed within the cabinet office reporting to me
and the president of the board of trade. This 'Year 2000 Team' has
strengthened arrangements to drive forward action on the date change,
both within government and through working with Action 2000 in the
private sector. The reports we have so far show that the message is
certainly getting across and provide some re-assurances that action
is being taken. They equally show that we cannot afford to let up
the pressure, and that we still need to monitor progress closely.
This I will certainly do and continue to report to the house on a