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Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK


Drive to beat Y2K panic

The government is keen to prevent mass cash withdrawals

Talk of crashing planes and broken cash machines at the end of the year are myths, according to the government's latest millennium bug campaign.

With just six months to go the government is seeking to reassure the public with an information leaflet called Facts not Fiction.

Minister Margaret Beckett: "Prepare sensibly for the sort of normal things you'd prepare for at that time of year"
Thousands will be inserted into next Sunday's newspapers. TV personality Nick Ross will also star in a radio and TV advertising campaign.

Leader of the House of Commons, Margaret Beckett, says she is confident the UK is ready for possible computer failures.

[ image:  ]
She has publicly warned people to stock up with food and household medicines, but only as much as they would for any other exceptional public holiday.

"A lot of preparations have been made," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But people should be sensible and realistic about the fact that it is going to be a long holiday period in the winter when there might be colds and flu about and prepare sensibly for the sort of normal things you'd prepare for at that time of year."

She said the government had been monitoring preparations made by public services and utilities through a special forum.

"The government is encouraging people in those sectors continually to make sure there is no disruption."

However, she would not say for certain there would be no disruption. "There's no such thing as guarantees in real life," she said.

She said the booklet should clarify the Y2K situation and "put it into a sensible context".

Dispelling the myths

The booklet will explain the facts about the problem caused by computers with two-digit dates that do not recognise the year 2000.

It says planes will not be allowed to fly in or out of Britain unless they are certified bug-free.

It also tells people they need not withdraw large amounts of cash from cash machines because these have been tested and will be working normally over the New Year period.

But it does warn that travel plans may be disrupted and making international calls might be difficult because not all the world's telecom companies will have fixed the problem on time.

Warning to business

At the same time the technology watchdog Action 2000, is launching its own campaign of awareness called Buildings Check, aimed at owners of commercial premises.

[ image: Action 2000 is launching its own campaign]
Action 2000 is launching its own campaign
It intends to highlight the possible problems for industry - failure of lifts, escalators, CCTV cameras, heating systems and fire alarms.

Most businesses have so far concentrated their bug-fixing efforts on computer networks, leaving checks on buildings and related equipment.

"Tenants of buildings could hold landlords or premises managers negligent and sue for loss of earnings from not being able to work from their offices," said Action 2000 chairman Don Cruickshank.

Last month, the National Audit Office called on Action 2000 and the Cabinet Office to apply pressure to councils to ensure they have contingencies in place.

It said the public sector was largely ready for potential bug problems, but warned there was still "a wide variation in progress by local authorities".

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