Government – SME minister daunted by job

Michael Wills, the new minister for small business and IT, admitted last week he felt daunted by his responsibility for tackling the year-2000 bug.

In one of the first public engagements he has faced since his appointment, Wills said he was ‘running fast to keep up’ with the ministerial brief he inherited from Barbara Roche – who transferred to the Treasury in the reshuffle that followed former trade secretary Peter Mandelson’s resignation.

‘I’m on a steep learning curve,’ admitted Wills.

In addition to his overseeing role on small business issues, including pushing through Roche’s improvement plans for the business links advice network, the year-2000 project has ‘rather dauntingly fallen to me to deal with,’ he said.

The content of Wills’ speech suggested he was reading from the same DTI scripts that were prepared as part of Mandelson’s ‘knowledge economy’ crusade launched last autumn.

‘It is essential for SMEs to embrace the advantages of electronic trading and tendering, but vital that they understand the potential risks associated with the mismanagement of IT,’ said Wills.

‘This is, after all, no different from businesses understanding the commitments that they have under health and safety or employment legislation.’

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