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Monday, March 30, 1998 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK

Special Report

Praise, criticism for Blair's bug money

While some computer experts have welcomed Tony Blair's announcement of 100m to be spent on thwarting the Millennium Bug, others say the initiative is too little too late.

The Millennium Bug refers to the problem computers will have if they fail to recognise the year 2000 because they only have a two-digit date field.

The prime minister said the problem was so great that it could threaten Britain's economic performance if it was not dealt with quickly.

He announced the government will recruit an army of 20,000 specially-trained people to tackle the threat.

Initiative 'world-leading' - but late

The initiative was warmly welcomed by some in the industry. One expert, Peter de Jager, said although the announcement was late, it was "world-leading".

"Just in this one speech, Mr Blair has said more about the Millennium problem than all other world leaders put together," he said.

Peter Kirwan, editor of Computing Magazine, says initative must be put in perspective (0' 18')
But an anti-bug company, Prove It 2000, said the scheme was too little too late, and ran the risk of letting lose a team of "dedicated amateurs" who could make a complex problem worse.

Chief Executive Richard Coppel said the government was "well intentioned but lacks any understanding of how the programme might be practically applied."

"To rely on training retired people and young graduates is likely to cause more problems than it solves," he said.

"No major company is going to allow these people anywhere near their systems."

Political opposition

Conservative spokeswoman Cheryl Gillan says government has already wasted time (0' 20')
The Conservatives have also dismissed the launch of extra money as too little too late.

Opposition spokeswoman for Trade and Industry, Cheryl Gillan, said Mr Blair had failed by not providing any new money for government departments.

"Hospitals, local authorities and schools will all have to find money from existing budgets and therefore cuts will have to be made elsewhere," she said.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Malcolm Bruce accused Mr Blair of lecturing small firms about the bug while the Treasury continued to ignore the financial consequences for the public sector.

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Internet Links

Year 2000 Crisis Information Centre

The Millennium Bug

International Symposium on the year 2000

Busting the Bug - British Government

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