ET Editorial: Re closing down noncompliant UK businesses : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

ET opinion, 5 March 1999

Millennium biscuit

IT is a tough task to make us take the millennium bug seriously, but yesterday's outburst from the person charged with getting us to do so surely takes the biscuit. "If they (the Health and Safety Executive) are unhappy with a business's ability to address the bug," said the exotic Gwynneth Flower, "they will sanction it by closing it down." We might have known: if all else fails, then invoke health 'n' safety fascism, and nobody will dare argue with you. It must be great fun to be the government bugbuster, official purveyor of this hysterical nonsense. If it all goes smoothly, you can claim a job well done, while if it all goes pear-shaped, you score a told-you-so. A less exotic creature might secretly wish for the latter.

-- Old Git (, March 07, 1999


Yeah, that's great. Non-compliant gov't bureaucrats shutting down private businesses for being non-compliant.

Even worse, most folks in gov't would see nothing wrong, nothing ironic, about this. "It's our duty to protect..." (everyone join in) "...the children!")

P.S. What the hell is an "exotic Gwynneth Flower"? Seems like this editorial writer was accessing his on-line Thesaurus a few too many times.

-- rick blaine (, March 07, 1999.

"P.S. What the hell is an "exotic Gwynneth Flower"?

Probably meant an "erotic Gwynneth Flower"...after all r & x are both there on the left side of a keyboard.

-- Charles R. (, March 07, 1999.

You're both right. This will explain. (You have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor.) =99999999&pg=/et/99/1/25/tlboris25.html

Monday 25 January 1999

Millennium bug-buster spills the beans

Boris Johnson talks to Gwynneth Flower, head of the Government's Year 2000 taskforce

IN the Hebrides folk are stockpiling custard creams and bowsers of water. So great is the panic that in China airline bosses have been ordered to show they are willing to pay the final price for incompetence by agreeing to be airborne when the unknowable moment comes.

Across the planet, east to west with the first rising sun of next year, computer dating systems will click forward from 99 to 00, and beeeeep, terrible things will happen. In the hospitals, they say, life support machines will turn themselves off.

Your bank account might decide that since it is now 1900 you haven't yet been born, and your money will be re-allocated without trace. The skies of Asia will allegedly be dark with plunging planes; and the video won't work.

The other day a senior Tory told me that the Government had hopelessly underestimated the impact of the Millennium bug. He saw it as a chance for a Tory recovery in the polls. That gives an idea of the scale of the catastrophe he envisaged.

Police leave has been cancelled for the turn of the Millennium. The Territorial Army has been put on standby. Tony Blair has appealed for 20,000 computer technicians to come to the aid of their country - and at the last count 26 had been found. Who is to protect the thin pie-crust of civilisation? Who shall save us all from expiring in stuck lifts?

Here she is, in her office in the basement of the DTI, an immaculately coiffed 60-year-old businesswoman. Gwynneth Flower is the head of Action 2000, the #25 million successor to Taskforce 2000.

Come off it, Gwynneth. Some of us have lived through the BSE hysteria. We saw off listeria, salmonella, Aids, all of whose ravages were greatly exaggerated by the authorities. This bug business is pure millennialist angst, Bermuda triangle stuff, eh? The former Army officer startled even the pessimists when she was reported to be calling for households to start hoarding tins of baked beans.

No, she says: that is an exaggeration. "I was asked to comment on an American Red Cross Report which said two weeks' supplies should be laid on, and all I said was that a nine-day holiday - which is what we will have - will cause a lot of people to stockpile. I'm always amazed at the size of people's trolleys." And no, she doesn't agree with the survivalists frantically building wigwams in the woods. "It obviously gets to the brain of some people. There will be no nuclear meltdown or anything like that," she says - at least not in this country.

The nuclear power boys have been round to see her in her "confessional", where she catechises people about their state of readiness. They've passed. The banks are doing well. She's confident the ATM machines have been debugged. British Airways is looking good, she says. Wouldn't it be extra reassuring, I suggest parenthetically, if Bob Ayling followed the example of his brave Chinese counterparts? Surely, if the head of BA has an ounce of backbone he will want to inspire his customers by spending the turn of Y2K at 30,000 ft in a BA Jumbo?

Gwynneth rather agrees, though she notes that "he will be down at the Dome. They all claim that they will be doing great things in other places".

And she herself? Will she be in the skies to see what happens when the chips go down?

"If I had to fly I would, but I've got a meeting that night," - an Internet discussion she hopes to conduct from home. Like most of us, she will want to be with her family - four children and six grandchildren. In any case, there's no doubting her bravery. Not only is she a former Army skiing champion and successful athlete, with long shimmering legs protruding from her tight-fitting pinstripe skirt, but a quarter of a century ago Gwynneth was a man. It takes guts, you'd have thought, to go on from that kind of handbrake turn to hold senior positions in companies like GEC, BT and then to be the country's number one bug-buster.

She has lately been giving the insurance companies a richly deserved kicking. The rats are now declaring that they won't pay up for problems caused by the bug, even if companies have taken steps to protect themselves.

"These insurers are a very strange bunch, I have to tell you. They only want to insure for things one doesn't expect to happen." That is leaving small businesses, those with fewer than 200 employees, at risk: not only of suffering problems, but of not being covered. And that is why she is still not happy with our state of readiness. That is why our children are made to scream by television ads showing a man without eyes or mouth, representing the dolts who are insufficiently bug-conscious.

No, she does not think Britain will disintegrate into a Day of the Triffids wasteland. But she refuses to say she is confident. "I lie in bed and I think, Gwynneth, you're being a twit. You're starting to believe your own propaganda."

At the very least, she says, the system will have to cope with jollification on a scale not seen. "It's going to be the most exciting evening of our lifetime. I expect people are going to party like - like bingo."

-- Old Git (, March 07, 1999.

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