Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
160. You appear to be rather timid on this particular
(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
(Mr Linehan) The representations we make are to Ordnance
164. What response have you had?
(Mr Linehan) Not a response that takes away the concerns
of our members.
165. Yet you just quoted one in which they immediately
made an arrangement, although many of these charities are extremely
(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!
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
(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
(Mr Linehan) Yes.
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
(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.
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.
179. What are your views on the recommendation
that Ordnance Survey becomes a Government Owned Public Limited
(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.