Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)




  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 easily?
  (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.

Mrs Dunwoody

  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 job?
  (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 photography—and traditionally that has been black and white photography—has 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.

Mrs Dunwoody

  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!

Mr Cummings

  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 answer.

  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 them.

  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 authorities direct?
  (Mr Linehan) Not directly.

  159. Why?
  (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.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 24 June 2002