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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)



  160. You appear to be rather timid on this particular issue?
  (Mr Linehan) Not really.

  161. It would certainly pay to be tenacious.
  (Mr Linehan) Maybe we should be more tenacious.

  162. In your memorandum you noted that the issue of the price of Ordnance Survey data has been raised with you on a number of occasions and that organisations, such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, have expressed concern. What problems have been encountered by your members? Can you give some practical examples to the Committee?
  (Mr Chainey) Where it has posed a problem is with voluntary organisations who seek to access Ordnance Survey data and have not been able to seek it because of costs of that data precluding them from any access to it. A good example was raised by Friends of the Earth about five or six years ago, where they were trying to gain access to a certain piece of information, which initially precluded them gaining access to that information because it was too costly. It was resolved by that information being made more cheaply available to them.

  163. Obviously you have encountered problems. They have been raised with you by your members. What representations have you made to the relevant authorities, and what has been the response?
  (Mr Linehan) The representations we make are to Ordnance Survey.

  164. What response have you had?
  (Mr Linehan) Not a response that takes away the concerns of our members.

Mrs Dunwoody

  165. Yet you just quoted one in which they immediately made an arrangement, although many of these charities are extremely wealthy.
  (Mr Linehan) That was not an immediate response; that took some time.

  166. But you got a response from Ordnance Survey?
  (Mr Linehan) On that individual case.

  167. Can you quote to us a case where you made a specific watertight case for a charity where they did not respond?
  (Mr Linehan) No. Ordnance Survey argue that the restrictions placed upon them by regulatory function of HMSO precludes them from making preferential prices available to the voluntary sector.

  168. I understand what Ordnance Survey say. Mr Cummings was specifically asking you for evidence.
  (Mr Linehan) I could find out.

  Mr Cummings: You appear to have a very faint heart. Faint heart never won a fair lady?

  Mrs Dunwoody: Or a decent price!

Mr Cummings

  169. Are you and your members concerned about the implications of the proposed regulation of Crown copyright licensing by Her Majesty's Stationery Office? If so, what are the implications that this may have for educational and charitable organisations?
  (Mr Linehan) We are concerned that HMSO appear to take a line that it is not appropriate for Ordnance Survey to make this data available at a preferential rate to the voluntary and educational sectors.


  170. That is a problem with HMSO rather than Ordnance Survey?
  (Mr Linehan) Yes.

Mr Cummings

  171. Once again, I am pressing you, what do you intend to do about it?
  (Mr Linehan) We have organised consultation with HMSO and we have submitted, in response to a public consultation, our views on HMSO and we have had subsequent meetings with them.

  172. Have you made any progress?
  (Mr Linehan) We feel we have made progress, yes.

  173. Do you and your members find the pricing negotiations particularly problematic?
  (Mr Linehan) I think our members find that it is problematic insofar as it is difficult to find consistency and transparency within the pricing structure.


  174. If the Ordnance Survey cuts its price then it means the Government has to subsidise it, does it not; or some other activity has to subsidise it that the Ordnance Survey does?
  (Mr Linehan) Unless demand goes up as a result of the price cut.

  175. Do you believe that if there was a significant price cut that demand would go up sufficiently to meet its income loss?
  (Mr Linehan) In the past when Ordnance Survey has cut prices demand has gone up; but clearly there is a threshold to demand, and there is a level below which if prices fall demand will not increase sufficiently to compensate for loss of revenue so, yes, it does present a problem.

Mr Cummings

  176. Would valuation of the National Topographic Database on Ordnance Survey's balance sheet have had a serious effect on prices?
  (Mr Linehan) If Ordnance Survey has to value the Database, as suggested by the National Audit Office, then that would clearly increase the capital invested and Ordnance Survey would have to generate a greater return in order to meet its obligation as a trading fund to deliver return on investment. One of the implications of that might be an increase in prices.


  177. What do you think the actual Database is worth; have you got any ideas?
  (Mr Linehan) It is impossible to value it.

  178. So you are not really recommending that it should be valued?
  (Mr Linehan) No. We agree with Ordnance Survey that it should not have a value on the balance sheet.

Mrs Ellman

  179. What are your views on the recommendation that Ordnance Survey becomes a Government Owned Public Limited Company?
  (Mr Linehan) Our view is that the case was not sufficiently well made in the stage one report of the Quinquennial Review. We appreciate that Ordnance Survey does find difficulty in attracting appropriate staff at appropriate levels of salary they are able to pay; but our feeling is that it is insufficient grounds for a recommendation that it should change from a trading fund to a Government Owned PLC. Our fear is that the greater commercial freedoms (although we are not exactly clear on what those would be) which a Government Owned PLC will allow it will further worry those who are potentially brought into competition with it, as it may extend its activities beyond its traditional role as the national mapping agency.

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