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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)



  100. So how are you going to make it cheaper?
  (Ms Lawrence) You have mentioned English Nature and we have answered how English Nature would be dealt with. Let us take a small representational group which has a particular interest. We believe that our pay-as-you-use system really does help them very considerably, and also this business use copying licence helps them considerably. It is because of those small groups and for education that we feel that the current consultation paper out from HMSO, which would make it only possible for one price to fit everybody, would be extremely difficult for us to consider.

Mrs Dunwoody

  101. I just wanted to ask you what effect you think there will be if you have in future a change of status in relation to your access to information, some of which is really of national importance. Will there be any real pressure? Will there be any conflict of interest?
  (Ms Lawrence) In our current work on changing to a Government-owned PLC we have not found anything that would stop us having access to information. We will continue to be here very much in the nation's interest.

  102. But if you were to change your status would there by a conflict of interest?
  (Ms Lawrence) I do not believe there would be, not with Government owning 100 per cent of the shares.

  103. So what you are proposing is a very particular kind of change which would still remain in the hands of the Government?
  (Ms Lawrence) The whole Board feels that we are here very much in the nation's interests. We are happy with 100 per cent ownership if that is what is proposed and we believe we will be able to function very well with that status, yes.

Christine Russell

  104. Do you think there is a need to clarify the boundaries of your work? You obviously cannot provide all the geographical information work, but you are a dominant force. There is some criticism that you are using your might, if you like, to compete perhaps unfairly with some of your licence partners. Do you feel there is a need to re-define your remit?
  (Ms Lawrence) When OS MasterMap, which under its previous name was called the Digital National Framework, was first defined, that was in a seminal consultation paper but also it was presented to the whole industry back in March 2000, I believe. It very clearly set out the layers that were being considered in which things like imagery and height were discussed. Many people have suggested to us that there are things that absolutely should be collected in the nation's interest, consistent and maintained. They were set out in that consultation paper of March 2000. Some of these layers for OS MasterMap will be collected with partners, such as our imagery layer. Others we intend to do ourselves. We have stated exactly where those boundaries are. The very first thing which I am very proud of is that we set out to the industry that we would completely recreate the database before the end of 2001. Many people said that would take us five to six years to do what we set out in November 2000. We completed it on time and to budget. Now we are building the layers. I think there were some partners who might have considered in 2000 that we had not got a hope of completing things and so as a result they saw themselves in a different light. It has been a surprise to much of the industry that we launched with a full understanding of not only how we were going to deliver the data, how the customer would receive it, but also we gave full national coverage with 433 million TOIDS being created in this country on time and to budget, which has led some people to have these kinds of discussions.

  Mrs Dunwoody: I do not like the idea of 433 million TOIDS. I think they will take us over.

Mrs Ellman

  105. Who decides what products you provide as a monopoly and where you should be competing in the private sector?
  (Ms Lawrence) As I mentioned earlier, I do not think we are a monopoly.

  106. In anything?
  (Ms Lawrence) You talk about products but really it comes down to data. In the future everything will come from the OS MasterMap. At the moment we have several databases which we update but in future everything will come from the OS MasterMap. There are products that we have talked about, such as Explorer and Landranger maps, and I believe you saw this morning how they would be produced in the future. In the majority of cases people take our raw data and then it is our partners who turn it into products rather than us turning it into products. We very much believe that we are the master data and then other people build software applications on top of it to make sure it is appropriate for a particular market place. That is how we intend to work. We are aware that in the past, for example, when I was a customer, it did not always feel like that but we are addressing those issues and we address them case by case.

  107. Do you feel there is a need for more openness in the geographical information market?
  (Ms Lawrence) Could I ask you to express what you mean by "openness"?

  108. It has been said, again back to your dominant position, that OS is a regular user, supplier and competitor.
  (Ms Lawrence) The geographical information industry is quite small. Everybody knows each other. We welcome new people joining the industry. It is always quite a surprise when there are new people who have come along to the industry exhibition which is held every autumn. Everyone welcomes new people joining and we are extremely welcoming of new partners. Hence we have set up our new partner programme which allows two things to happen. First of all, certainly when I was a customer, if there were data sets that I wanted to use perhaps to demonstrate to somebody else the benefits of using geographic information, it was sometimes difficult to get hold of those databases from Ordnance Survey. As a result of our developer programme now anyone from yourself to any pensioner to any very large multinational organisation can pay £500 per year in order to have access to £40,000 worth of our data if they want to use it just to develop their idea on. We believe that will give greater openness than ever before. Our Partner Programme absolutely makes sure that it is more advantageous than ever before to partner with us.

  109. So a company that expressed concern that it was in competition with you as your licensee would be wrong?
  (Ms Lawrence) There may be a particular instance but I am not aware—obviously there are competitors in the paper mapping world. In certain small scales and mid scales modelling there have been competitors.
  (Mr Erskine) Certainly in the route planning or road map market we have been established for a long time but there are licensed partners of ours who then go on to produce products which compete in the same space. They are not exactly the same products but they do compete in the same space. If you take road maps and routing as an example, where we have several competitors, we have a fairly equal share of the market.

  110. So you do not think there is any cause for concern?
  (Mr Erskine) In that specific example, we have always been in that market place. There is always the danger of course that we reduce the size of our portfolio so much that it makes it very difficult to operate. When we have licensed partners who know that we already produce mapping in that particular environment they take that data and work with us, and so we are not particularly dominant in that market. In fact we have a very equal share with those people.
  (Ms Lawrence) We have very much said on the digital side that we are here to create the base data from which other people will create their applications. In order to deliver services to a particular organisation it is necessary to have hardware and software plus data. You cannot just take our data and believe you will get the analysis capability. You have to have the software and the hardware tools to do that.

  111. You are not accepting that the base data which is so essential is actually a product?
  (Ms Lawrence) Our base layers and OS MasterMap are not a product, I do not think. They are very much the base from which everyone else will derive benefit, and certainly that is how most people view them.

  112. What about the division of responsibility between yourselves, HM Land Registry, the Office of National Statistics?
  (Ms Lawrence) We have an extremely good relationship with all of those at all levels of business. They are large customers of ours, but we also have members of our staff who are on their data committees and some of their staff are collaboratively working with us on our data committees to ensure that we are joining up our information as best we can and also that we are working together to ensure that we are all moving with each other's strategies.

  113. Could you be combined with the Land Registry?
  (Ms Lawrence) In some countries that has been the case but the Quinquennial Review of the Land Registry, which I believe was published right at the end of 2001, has recommended that that does not happen. It was looked at within our Quinquennial Review and I do not believe there was any recommendation. From my point of view I have worked in many different countries and there have been cases where you have got these humongous departments which are dealing with all the land issues, but frankly it is about good communication and good collaboration. It has nothing to do with combining organisations. We effectively do different things but it is important that we join up geography and as a result that joins up government as well.


  114. DTLR told us that there were six key targets for you to achieve between 2000 and 2002. How many of those key targets will you achieve?
  (Ms Lawrence) We have annual performance measures every year. We met our target between 2000 and 2001 and we fully expect to meet them between 2001 and 2002. Our year end is the 31 March and we meet as a Board every week. We monitor these at least once a month if not more if there is any cause for concern.

  115. So the carbon emissions from this building are going to be down by 1 per cent; is that right?
  (Ms Lawrence) The answer is yes, but I should like David to give you a little bit more information on our new combined heating and power system.
  (Mr Willey) We have invested very significantly in combined heat and power units which will greatly improve the energy efficiency of the building. This is a 1960s building. It is not built to be desperately energy efficient but we think we are making a very significant contribution through that.

  116. On the minor points, what is happening about laminated maps? Have they got a future?
  (Mr Erskine) There are a number of issues on laminated maps. We have looked at different types of laminated maps. We have partners who already take Ordnance Survey maps and laminate them for you. We have looked at the potential to print on waterproof paper and different types of laminated surface. When we do market research we do not get an awful lot of feedback from people who say the durability of the mapping is their biggest concern. It is very much the content of the mapping that they are concerned with. We will continue to look at a wide range of technical changes to any of our mapping. At the moment we do not produce that but it is something that we will always consider in the future.

  117. You are abandoning the Outdoor Leisure maps; is that right?
  (Mr Willey) We are not abandoning the Outdoor Leisure maps. We are re-branding the Outdoor Leisure and Explorer maps together but it will not impact on people who want to buy the same quality of mapping as they currently get with Outdoor Leisure.

  118. But the one with the yellow cover at the moment tends to cover twice or sometimes three times the area that the Explorer map covers.
  (Mr Willey) My understanding is that the sheet coverage areas will not change but I can make sure that that is the situation and let you know.

  119. Are you doing as much now for the military as you used to do?
  (Ms Lawrence) The Ministry of Defence is a large customer of ours. We continue to provide them with overprinted paper mapping. We work with them at their request as necessary

   Chairman: On that note can I thank you very much for answering all our questions and again I reiterate that we thank you very much for your hospitality.

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