Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
140. Can we just be clear, you could say in
the past when Ordnance Survey had a large number of points you
had to have a large number of people on the ground doing a great
deal of mapping, that it would very difficult for anyone else
to compete. Given how easy it is relatively to do aerial surveys
now, is it not possible for other people to enter the market quite
(Mr Chainey) Then the question would be: what is the
point, when there is already large scale mapping information available
which is being used by a large sector of the economy. There is
then this point when anybody else can go out and develop, to the
expense of developing, the large scale data sets.
141. How far should Ordnance Survey take its
monopoly position? What you are saying is you want to have a division
between their commercial activities and their large scale mapping.
Where do you draw the line between those two?
(Mr Linehan) If the commercial activities are being
delivered or can be delivered by the private sector then that
is where the line should be drawn.
142. You do not see any interest at all for
the nation, or any difference between what is a responsibility
to the state to provide accurate information and what is simply
a money-making exercise?
(Mr Linehan) Do I not see any benefit to the state
from both of those?
143. You do not see any difference. You do not
see any line of demarcation. To you it should simply be a question
that Ordnance Survey provides the private sector with what it
wants to do and the private sector goes and makes a profit?
(Mr Linehan) No, Ordnance Survey clearly has a national
interest function, part of which is covered by its NIMSA agreement
with government. It clearly has a responsibility to map the country
and provide accurate, up-to-date quality mapping.
144. That is exactly your definition of its
(Mr Linehan) That is its core role.
145. Should that include providing an aerial
map from aerial photography for the country?
(Mr Linehan) In the past that has never been Ordnance
Survey's role. The use of aerial photography has been part of
the mapping process. There is a sector which provides aerial photography
for a number of uses and applications already in existence, and
national coverage is available through the commercial sector.
One has to question whether Ordnance Survey has a role in creating
and owning that imagery itself, or whether it should be partnering
with the private sector who are doing that.
146. Ordnance Survey has been doing that since
1920, has it not. Is it reasonable for it to continue that?
(Mr Linehan) It has been doing it as part of the mapping
process. The aerial photographyand traditionally that has
been black and white photographyhas been part of the process
of creating maps.
147. Is it such a change from black and white
to colour; is that a significant change. I know in terms of doing
3D work on a map it is easier to do it with black and white pairs
than it is to do with coloured pairs; but it has been available
and people have been able to buy the sets from the Ordnance Survey
for academic work since the 1920s, have they not?
(Mr Linehan) They have, but I think there is a qualitative
difference between black and white photography and colour photography.
148. It is not a principled objection; it is
an objection to the type of printing?
(Mr Linehan) No, it is an objection to the principle
of doing it as well.
149. Is there not a danger that you have Ordnance
Survey with a core set of activities and then somebody suddenly
finds doing one of the things Ordnance Survey was historically
doing could be done profitably, so you say, "Ordnance Survey
can't do that". Should people be able to move in to say,
"Ordnance Survey shouldn't be able to do town centre maps"
because someone can do that and do it profitably without using
the Ordnance Survey data set?
(Mr Linehan) I think in the instance of aerial photography
one has to look at the extent to which and I know there
is a court case so one has to be careful.
150. I am being careful.
(Mr Linehan) I am trying to be careful too! I think
one has to acknowledge that if the private sector has developed
a business case and the business in a particular way and that
is threatened by a public sector body with a near-monopoly position,
dominant position in the market, moving in to threaten that business
case, that is a concern. Our view, as the Association for Geographic
Information, is that it is for the benefit of the citizen, country
and good governance that there is an increase in the use of geographic
information across all sectors. Our view is that, if Ordnance
Survey is in a position to abuse its dominance then that inhibits
the take-up and the growth of the geographical information sector.
151. You are saying that the Ordnance Survey
was not doing it. The Ordnance Survey is clearly saying that they
have historically been doing it.
(Mr Linehan) They have been doing it for a particular
purpose, and they have changed the type of photography that they
take and the purpose for which they use it.
Chairman: From black and white to colour!
152. The Committee have been told that perhaps
the only recourse customers have with their grievance is through
the legal system. Do you believe that there should be an independent
regulator or Ombudsman to whom aggrieved customers could complain?
(Mr Linehan) Yes, we believe there should be. We do
not believe that grievances should have to go to litigation.
153. Could you tell the Committee why Ordnance
Survey appear to be so strict and intransigent on this issue?
(Mr Linehan) It is a question Ordnance Survey can
154. Have you ever questioned it?
(Mr Linehan) We have.
155. What has been their response?
(Mr Linehan) Their view is that they need regulation
with a light touch in order to develop in the greater commercial
freedoms that the recommendations of the Quinquennial Review offer
156. Who should decide what products Ordnance
Survey may supply as a monopoly, and where it should properly
compete with the private sector?
(Mr Linehan) We have proposed that there should be
an independent Geographic Commission that represents the various
interested sectors within this industry, that should be in a position
to define what are the core data sets and core products that are
in the interests of the country.
157. Have you made such a suggestion to the
respective ministers; and what has been their response?
(Mr Linehan) The suggestion has come through this
route for this inquiry.
158. You have not contacted the appropriate
(Mr Linehan) Not directly.
(Mr Linehan) Because the recommendations of stage
one of the Quinquennial Review were published at the end of last
year which was timely in terms of the consultation from ths committee.