Company directors could face stiff penalties if they fail to complete audits on the likely impact of the year 2000 problem.
Tory MP David Atkinson has been given the go-ahead to introduce a bill compelling companies to address the year 2000 date-change crisis. The bill will amend the 1985 Companies Act so the onus is on directors to make clear what action they intend to take.
Despite complaints from the paymaster general's office that making firms undertake a statutory audit of their computer systems 'would not be the right way forward', Atkinson's bill won support of about a dozen MPs in the final sitting of the Commons before the Christmas recess.
The private member's bill, which Atkinson describes as a 'legal kick up the behinds of chief executives', could be given Royal Assent in the spring. This would be a massive boost to year 2000 solution providers that have long warned of the perils of not getting to grips with the problem, caused by the inability of many older computers to recognise new millennium date codes.
Colin Reardon, VP of international operations at Viasoft, whose UK customers include the Bank of Scotland, said: 'From a business perspective it's good news. But I'm not sure about penalising firms if they fail to comply - they're going to be in enough trouble.'
Respondents to one Department of Trade survey said the millennium time bomb could individually cost them #500,000 to defuse.
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