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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Is my right hon. Friend aware that earlier in the week, when I asked the vice-chancellor of a university with strong science departments what was his greatest concern about the millennium, he replied, "It's not physics or chemistry; it's the possibility of burglary and vandalism". Given that the police--like the rest of us--have families with whom they may want to spend the millennium, what can be done to monitor obviously vulnerable situations?

May I be allowed a second question? Earlier in the year, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary rightly said that he paid much regard to his talks with the Russians about the Soviet Arctic fleet. Now that relations with the Russians have unfortunately cooled, have those talks continued?

Mrs. Beckett: I hope, to some degree, to reassure my hon. Friend on his important point about the need for public services, such as the police, to continue to work over the millennium period. He is right to say that the police, like the rest of us, wish to spend time with their families. Although I am pleased to be able to pay tribute to the work of the police as a public service, my hon. Friend may not be aware that, despite that wish, all police leave in all parts of the country has been cancelled. The same applies to other emergency services, such as the fire service. The House will wish to place on record the debt of gratitude that we owe to such public servants at all times, but particularly for the commendable spirit that they have shown in these preparations.

On the Arctic fleet, I can tell my hon. Friend that, whatever the developments in general relations with Russia, there has continued to be an exchange of information, advice and co-operation. Those exchanges have taken place not only with ourselves, but with our allies. I am not aware of the specific circumstances of the Arctic fleet, but I will inquire into that. However, as I know that other work and the exchange of information has continued, I see no reason to doubt that it has continued in that case.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): I join the Leader of the House and the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) in congratulating the United Kingdom's information technology industry, in both the public and the private sectors, on the way that it has faced this technical challenge. On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I also express my appreciation to the right hon. Lady for the responsible and sober way in

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which she has reported to the House on these matters. That has contrasted well with the scaremongering and the attempts to make political capital that took place in the early days about what is essentially a technical challenge.

Will the report that the Leader of the House will present in January cover some of the wider issues about costs in the public sector, and will it deal with the contractual issues for Government bodies that deal with annual rather than rolling budgets?

At a domestic level, I invite the right hon. Lady to congratulate the staff of Parliament who have worked very hard to get our systems in place. I know that she has been able to write to all Members to tell them that our systems will be up and running across the millennium period. Although our constituents would probably place access to on-line Hansard slightly lower down their list of priorities than access to electricity and gas, that small example of how to approach the problem reflects very well on the staff of the House.

Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I shall certainly convey his thanks to all the staff who worked with me on preparing this statement. I know that his comments will be much appreciated.

I shall obviously consider the issues that we want to cover in the report back to the House. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that all the indications about costs suggest that they are remaining stable at about £430 million for central Government. It is harder to assess more widely than that. Figures of £1 billion and£3 billion have been suggested, and the wider costs will no doubt be of that order of magnitude. The hon. Gentleman will probably know that the costs to central Government are about a 16 per cent. increase on what was anticipated in 1997, but the figure has stayed roughly stable for quite some time.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important and interesting point about contractual issues. It will be interesting to see how they develop. One of the helpful features of the work that has been done is that it has encouraged an exchange of information rather than a contested relationship between bodies that have mutual inter-dependency. That has seen us very well in the run-up to the date change, and I hope that that attitude and experience will continue.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Can we have an assurance that the nuclear industry--both the nuclear power generation sector and the reprocessing sector--has been required to undertake to the Government that it is fully millennium compliant? Can we also be told whether Foreign Office officials have been monitoring the level of compliance by the nuclear industry in other parts of the world?

Mrs. Beckett: In addition to the assurances that it might have been required to give the Government, the nuclear industry in this country has been required to give assurances to the independent nuclear installations inspectorate, which has monitored the detail of its work and its continuity plans, such as they may be, its operating regimes and so on. All that has been independently assessed and cleared by inspectorate staff.

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My hon. Friend asked about the monitoring of nuclear industries overseas. Part of the Foreign Office's work has been to provide as much information as it can, in the widest possible context--not just in the context of the nuclear industry--about the position throughout the world. Again, international enforcement agencies have been monitoring the position. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), there has been much international exchanging of information, advice and support in that sector. Obviously, that gives us some of the reassurance that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) seeks.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): What additional remuneration will people who are working directly for Departments get--as opposed to the additional remuneration that other people in the public sector, such as nurses and doctors, will get?

Mrs. Beckett: I am afraid that I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman that because there is no overall fixed regime. It has been left to Departments to make the arrangements that they need and to come to agreements with staff. Obviously, in some Departments there is a normal expectation of continuity of service that will be needed over the millennium, so different arrangements have been made by different Departments.

Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East): My hon. Friend will be aware that the UK's role has been commended as a model of good practice internationally. However, she will also be aware that the millennium bug can lead not just to failure, but to misunderstandings. In view of rising tensions in Grozny, in particular, and in other parts of the world, can she assure the House that allowances have been made for those misunderstandings to be taken into account by the Ministry of Defence, particularly with regard to nuclear warnings? Can she assure the House that, given that the millennium bug could affect us on a number of key dates throughout next year, she will continue to report to the House?

Mrs. Beckett: I will be happy to keep the House informed. Whether we will need to have the sort of regular reports that we have had during the latter part of this year remains to be seen, although my hon. Friend is right to say that there are other key dates, in particular, obviously, the end of February.

My hon. Friend asked about misunderstandings. He may know that, for example, the American Government and Russian Government have not only exchanged information and kept each other up to date, but are to exchange personnel, so a huge amount has been done internationally to try to ensure that difficulties do not arise unnecessarily.

My hon. Friend was good enough to refer to the UK being seen internationally as a model of good practice. The House may like to know that our original Action 2000 leaflet "Home Check" was reprinted in Canada and Jersey and by Reader's Digest in China and Australia. It has been distributed to all Shell staff world wide. The business packs are being used in the United States, France and Greece. The business and domestic packs are being used in Sweden, India and worldwide by Cable and Wireless.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): I thank my right hon. Friend for the information and the

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Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office, for his work. However, we must not forget my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), who started the work two and a half years ago. It is commendable that we have done all this and I congratulate everyone.

I am slightly nervous that everything is web-centric. Will the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 carry information and hotline numbers during the period? Many people will not have access to computers at school because they will be shut down. What proposals do we have to stop merchant ships and aeroplanes that are not millennium compliant docking or landing?

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