Publicity campaign 'trivialises' Y2K

The booklet will warn against stocking up on food

November 1, 1999

A £9.4m publicity campaign to reassure the public that there is nothing to fear from the millennium bug has been dismissed as a waste of money.

The government is to distribute booklets to all 26m homes in the UK in an attempt to dissuade people from stockpiling food out of fear of mass computer crashes on 1 January.

But Taskforce 2000, the independent bug-watch organisation, claimed the 24-page leaflet "trivialised" the issue and did not address the more long-term concerns arising from the Y2K problem.

However, Commons leader, Margaret Beckett said the 24-page booklet would separate the millennium bug facts from the fiction.

[ image: Margaret Beckett: Booklet will separate fact from fiction] Margaret Beckett: Booklet will separate fact from fictionGovernment departments are confident that they have taken action to limit the damage that could be done by the software bug - which is caused by an inability of many electronic systems to recognise the change in date when 1999 becomes 2000.

Industry and individuals have also been striving to neutralise the potential threat to their computers from Y2K.

Mrs Beckett, said: "A huge amount of work has been done in this country to prepare for the millennium bug and we are not expecting any significant problems over that period as a result of the bug.

"Everyone can be confident that the UK is as well prepared as any country in the world.

"People stockpiling food could cause shortages and we do not need that."

'Not a good use of money'

The BBC's Emma Simpson reports: "The government promises there will be no serious disruption"But Taskforce 2000 director Robin Guenier said: "I think to be spending nearly £10m of taxpayers money to reassure people and to cause them not to panic when nobody is panicking or needs reassurance is not a good use of that money."

Mr Guenier stressed that a "significant number" of big businesses were planning for the short-term problem at midnight on 31 December 1999.

"For example, supermarkets are going to be well stocked up with food for the period, but if there are failures among seed growers, manufacturers, shippers, packers and aircraft, there is the possibility of food supplies getting into some serious muddle as we go further into the new year," he said.

"It may be that the real task isn't what happens on 1 January, but 1 March."

Mr Guenier said Taskforce 2000, which was set up by the last Tory government, also feared international banks might suffer from problems associated with the millennium bug.

But Gwynneth Flower, managing director of the rival Action 2000 group, said it was right to reassure people and prevent them putting extra strain on certain key services.

She said: "This leaflet helps consumers to understand the myths about the millennium bug.

"The end of the year is a time for celebration, not for unnecessary worry.

"Banks are not going to lose your financial records and your central heating will come on."

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