Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Tenth Report


That Ordnance Survey were able to cut the price in the case of one significant service to business from £800,000 to £120,000 a year simply as a result of renegotiation suggests to us that a similarly vigorous series of renegotiations may prove advantageous to all parties (paragraph 10).

In Britain, clear accurate maps are necessary to so much of modern life and are an essential tool to an effective democracy. In making maps available for such purposes, it is reasonable for Ordnance Survey to charge the full cost of providing the maps whether on a web-site for downloading or in paper form. But the Ordnance Survey should not be seeking to obtain a return from provision of these services in order to cover its general overheads nor to contribute to the costs of map data collection (paragraph 13).

There is plainly a need for greater transparency in the way that Ordnance Survey uses the public funding passed to it under the National Interest Mapping Service Agreement, so that all parties can be satisfied that it is being used as intended (paragraph 14).

The Committee recommends that the Government provides funding for a long-term Pan Government Service Level Agreement to ensure widespread use of Ordnance Survey data across Government, so as to ensure the Government gets the best value for money. This should be done by the start of the 2003/04 financial year (paragraph 16).

The Committee concludes that there is a clear need to define the boundaries of Ordnance Survey public service and national interest work. If Ordnance Survey wants to enter into commercial activities we can see no reason why it should not do so, but the two activities ought to be separately accounted for and its commercial arm should pay the same copyright fees as any other organisation/competitor (paragraph 20).

In light of the evidence received and the volume of current and past legal action between Ordnance Survey and its partners, there is a clear need for some form of independent arbitration so that conflicts could be resolved without going to the courts. The exact form of any regulator obviously needs to be considered in some detail but there is also a clear need for some form of regulation, if only to arbitrate cases of dispute (paragraph 23).

The Committee recommends that a panel of at least three advisers is established to advise Government on geographic information issues in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interests. Membership of this panel should include the Chairman of AGI, the Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey, and one or more representatives of the private sector (paragraph 25).

The Committee is strongly opposed to Ordnance Survey's proposed transition to Government Owned Public Limited Company and sees no case at all for change from its current status. Ordnance Survey has experienced no problems with borrowing while operating as a trading fund. The Committee finds it hard to believe that the only way to pay staff better is by becoming a Government Owned Public Limited Company. The broad problems affecting Ordnance Survey, such as the definition of its boundaries of work, will not be resolved through transition to Government Owned Public Limited Company. It is inadvisable to impose on Ordnance Survey a legal framework designed for a commercial organisation, without a proper assessment of what the role of a national mapping agency should be and the extent to which it should be involved in commercial activities. The Committee recommends that the Government rejects the option of making Ordnance Survey into a Government Owned Public Limited Company (paragraph 31).

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Prepared 24 June 2002