Action 2000 talks tough

Firms that refuse to take action against the millennium bug "will be closed down" under Health and Safety regulations Action 2000 said Thursday.

In her State of the Nation update, Gwynneth Flower, managing director of Action 2000 pointed to current research which shows only two in five of UK businesses are on course for the Year 2000.

Action 2000 said four-fifths of firms claimed to be millennium compliant but according to the organisation's research only 50 percent had set up a proper bug programme. Flower criticised those firms of "an amateurish and unhealthy" reliance on their own judgement.

In an attempt to convince companies of the need for action, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be giving a higher profile to bug issues over the coming months. "If HSE is unhappy about a business's compliance to the bug it will close it down," Flower warned.

Any firm which uses embedded chips in fire alarms, lifts and even lighting systems could potentially be targeted by the HSE.

Despite Action 2000's threats the HSE doubts they will ever be carried out: "Closing firms down is not a very likely move," said an HSE spokesman. "Certainly within the first and second quarter we would be more likely to issue improvement notices," he said. While not ruling out the possibility of issuing prohibition notices later in the year he claimed it was "not currently appropriate".

Commenting on the State of the Nation report, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "Time has very nearly run out for the firms that are behind. With under ten months to go, they have two clear choices; use the time to beat the bug, or risk being beaten by it."

Action 2000's attempts to get the Y2K ball rolling seem dogged by red tape and Flower admitted there was a limit to what Action 2000 could do to persuade companies to comply. "We have led the business horse to water but very few are taking an adequately long drink," she said.


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