Millennium bug: erm, we're not ready - MOD, Inland Rev.

If the effects of the millennium bug are unpredictable, news of progress to combat it is becoming very predictable.

20 percent of government departments, including the MOD and the Inland Revenue are not ready for the bug.

The message coming regularly from Action 2000 and the government on how businesses and essential services are coping is that there is still work to be done. Yesterday it was the turn of Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House, to declare the government is 80 percent millennium compliant. "But there is still work to be done," she told the House of Commons yesterday.

MOD spokesman Marcus de Ville admitted critical defence systems still to be made bug-compliant include weapon systems, army vehicles and naval ships. He denied this was a cause for concern. "There is no question of weapons going off, it would just mean they wouldn't operate properly," he said. He remains confident that, by autumn, all mission critical systems will be fully millennium compliant and that the UK will have "full defence capability". He claimed an autumn completion date was always the MOD's deadline.

Inland Revenue chairman Nick Montagu claimed "recent additions" to the project have put back delivery dates but in a statement assured the public "customer service standards and delivery of revenue to the Exchequer will not be jeopardised."

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman claimed some slippage in government departments was inevitable. "It is part of bug planning that added work comes up that wasn't originally anticipated," she said.