Tony Blair's government stands accused of trying to deliberately mislead the British public over the readiness of the country's largest companies for the Year 2000 date change.
Government Y2K body Action 2000 last week released selected highlights from its latest survey of British businesses into the preparedness of their IT systems for the millennium.
But Y2K guru Robin Guenier, representing independent group Taskforce 2000, today publicly accused the government of misleading the public by keeping secret the serious problems exposed by the survey and only revealing selective highlights.
Action 2000 reported last week that of 75 per cent of the FTSE 500 companies surveyed, 90 per cent were on course for Year 2000 compliance. But Guenier today told a packed house of 250 senior executives at the Regent Conference in London today that he had seen the unpublished figures, which paint a much darker picture.
The unpublished figures show that 20 per cent of FTSE 500 companies have not yet completed an IT inventory - the first step in checking for Y2K compliance - and that while 45 per cent have done an inventory, they have made little further progress, said Guenier.
"Why would a government body want to deliberately mislead us?" said Guenier, "If hundreds of businesses are lagging, surely it needs massive publicity."
Tony Blair has previously said it is necessary to be straight with the public about the state of progress, he added.
"Either the government doesn't understand the situation themselves, or it believes that openness could lead to public panic," said Guenier, "If we were in the last quarter of 1999, then fear of panic might be justified, but now the priority has to be to recognise facts," he said.
Guenier also took the opportunity to try and dispel a few of what he called Y2K myths. Firstly the focus on midnight 31 December, 1999, as the time when the bug kicks in is wrong he said, adding that only about 5 per cent of failures will happen in that time.
Secondly, stories that home appliances like microwaves and video recorders will blow up are completely wrong, he said. Home PCs showing wrong dates are about the extent of the impact on the home, he added. Lastly he said he does not believe the view that Y2K will effect huge numbers of small businesses.
"There are under two million small businesses [in the UK] and the vast majority may have a problem, but it isn't necessarily that serious," he said.
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