Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
KEEBLE MP, MR
320. So what kind of savings are you talking
(Ms Keeble) There will be established arrangements
for the pricing and you will not have to have the kind of discussions
that are talked about there. I would also hope that it would lead
to more government services and agencies actually taking up and
using OS data.
321. When the Ordnance Survey told us that delay
in arranging such a straightforward system arose from difficulties
in negotiating for central funding, could you tell us why that
(Ms Keeble) I cannot offhand. Do you want to deal
(Mr Capell) I will try and deal with that. The new
Pan Government SLA will come in from 2 April as a pilot. It has
not been easy to come to an agreement between our department,
the Treasury and the Office for e.Envoy on funding the gap between
the current amounts of money which are paid under a range of Service
Level Agreements and the increased amounts that Ordnance Survey
reasonably want in order to open up all of their data to the whole
of central government. We have an agreement with them that a pilot
will be put in place on 2 April and work will continue then, vigorously,
to put in a long-term, established system.
322. You will then be able to prove to the Treasury
that they have got a genuine case. Is what you are really saying?
(Mr Capell) Yes.
323. You will then give us some indication as
you go on, perhaps, in a short note.
(Mr Capell) Yes.
324. Some witnesses have said to us that there
is a potential conflict of interest because the Director General
of Ordnance Survey is also Geographic Adviser to the Government.
Do you accept that?
(Ms Keeble) There is an issue about that and that
comes up again with the regulation and governance issue, which
I would expect to be dealt with, at least, as part of the Stage
2 review. I am aware that there is criticism of the OS role. OS,
I have to say, has always been the national mapping agency and,
therefore, it would be logical for it to have that role. Increasingly,
given the changes that are taking place, there is a need to look
at it. I have to say I am not quite clear who else could do it.
325. Does that mean that you are unwilling to
look at alternatives?
(Ms Keeble) No, it does not. It just means that if
there is going to be an alternative suggested there is going to
have to be some very careful thinking about what that might bewhat
kind of a person or agency or function that might be.
326. Are there negotiations going on at the
moment between the Government and Ordnance Survey on what constitutes
a definitive national spatial data infrastructure?
(Ms Keeble) I do not know. Is there?
(Mr Capell) Yes.
327. Could you tell us what the issues are?
Or would you be willing to make details of those discussions available?
(Mr Capell) I am happy to supply a note. In brief,
there are great benefits to the country if there is a joined up,
single, definitive data-set which includes land and addressesproperty
information and address informationin one data-set. That
does not exist in a perfect stage today. Ordnance Survey, together
with a number of other government bodies and with our department
are working towards creating that. That is necessary to produce
the benefits in data-systems and public services that we want
Mrs Dunwoody: You can give us a short note on
that, Mr Capell. Thank you.
328. Why did the previous Director General of
Ordnance Survey resign?
(Ms Keeble) I think he found himself in a personal
difficulty and he took the decision very suddenly to resign.
329. Was it something entirely personal and
not to do with the conflicts in the job?
(Ms Keeble) I think he had particular personal reasons
for doing that, which I probably should not go into here.
330. How do the Ordnance Survey's electronic
systems link into the National Land Use Database?
(Mr Capell) There are two parts to the National Land
Use Database. One is a collection of brownfield sites from local
authorities, which benefit from being linked to Ordnance Survey
maps, and another part of it is the wider, total land use data-set,
and that is being taken forward between our department and Ordnance
Survey as a possible future layer as part of their master map
331. How comprehensive do you think the National
Land Use Database actually is?
(Mr Capell) The previously developed land part of
the National Land Use Database was collected comprehensively in
1998 and is being completed now for 2001. A new National Land
Use Database is something which is still being researched. I cannot
when say it is going to be complete now, we are researching how
to do it.
332. Obviously brownfield sites are particularly
topical and of importance at the moment. What has the comparison
been between the work that has been done through the Ordnance
Survey in looking at the availability of brownfield sites and
the information that has been coming in from local authorities?
Do those two marry up or is there a great discrepancy?
(Mr Capell) No, there is no discrepancy at all. Ordnance
Survey have been partners with the Department, IDeA and English
Partnerships in trying to make a success of this project to create
an improved National Land Use Database. The mapping element is
a key part of that.
333. Can I ask you, finally, if there is a possibility
of Ordnance Survey developing a website for electioneering, with
all-year-round access to data?
(Ms Keeble) I think the problem there, as I said previously,
is about the impact of the competition legislation. They keep
their maps up, but some of the data comes off. It is put on, as
I understand it, only when there is an election or by-election.
If they did otherwise (because it was provided free-of-charge,
as I understand it, at the last election) they would run into
real problems for under-cutting some of the private sector.
334. Even if, in fact, that information was
restricted to Members and their staff?
(Ms Keeble) Members of their staff?
335. No. It was offered, as you know, to people
throughout, and that was all candidates, but as you know throughout
the year there will be all sorts of usages that will be obvious
to Members of Parliament. Why should that be a difficulty if that
was a continuing service?
(Ms Keeble) Basically, we ought to be buying it. It
was provided at the elections, it was enormously useful but they
do have to be careful about their pricing policies because otherwise
they can find themselves in difficulty with the Competition Act.
That is my understanding.
336. Can we ask the department to look at whether
there is a way of using a restricted website which could provide
some information? There will be enormous differences in the amount
of use made of the data between election times and normal times.
(Ms Keeble) Can I just say, presumably they could
do something like provide it as a service that you can buy, like
you can buy anything else on the internet. That would mean you
would have to pay for it, like we have to pay for so many other
337. I see. I think what the Committee would
find helpful is to have some idea of the timetable of your examination
of these two alternatives at Stage 2.
(Ms Keeble) I think I covered that in my statement,
that we expect to have Stage 2 completed by May and a decision
made before the summer recess. So that is not long.
338. No, I think that is quite a full schedule!
Minister, I think that has all been very interesting. Doubtless
we shall come back to you and we should expect a number of notes.
Thank you very much indeed.
(Ms Keeble) Thanks.