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

Supplementary Note to Questions by Ordnance Survey (OS 22(b))


  On Regulation I should have pointed out that in addition to HMSO's regulatory control of Crown Copyright we are subject to the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration[1]. We believe that this, together with the influence of market forces and the influence of such things as the Competition Act provide sufficient controls for the time being.


  Central Government has the potential to be a major user of Ordnance Survey data. Within the Civil Service Year Book over 500 Departments, Agencies, Trading Funds and associated bodies are listed.

  Currently there are 40 major central government bodies in England, Scotland and Wales licensing data from Ordnance Survey. Over the 12 months to October 2001, the revenue earned from these users for licensed data has ranged from £2,731 (North West Regional Development Agency) to £3,950,000 (Her Majesty's Land Registry) and totals £15,705,000. Six users license data worth more than £1,000,000 per annum, while 14 others are in the range £100,000 to £1,000,000.

  Within the 40 major users there are two main groupings—the Central Government consortium comprising 14 users and the Scottish Office consortium comprising 18 users. There are eight one-to-one agreements with major users (eg HMLR, Highways Agency, Coal Authority and Ministry of Defence). The consortia and the major customers benefit from volume discounts and enhanced support. The remainder of customers tend to licence data in small quantities and simply pay list price. A number of departments of state and agencies are conspicuous by their absence as major users despite the potential for significant benefits from the use of geographic information.

  Each government customer today arranges its own funding through its own budget mechanisms and each takes a different set of products from Ordnance Survey.

  Even simple use of geographic information systems can unlock the potential that hides within dry tables of data. Integration of information in a geographic context can be even more powerful. Clusters of disease incidents, crime hotspots, social deprivation factors, and a wide range of other applications show the potential for geographic information to make a major contribution in developing policies and services which raise the quality of life, stimulate economic activity, save costs, etc.

  Integrating diverse datasets and displaying the results against a map background can clearly indicate underlying relationships that are very difficult to determine otherwise.

  Ordnance Survey therefore believes that there should be a much greater use and interchange of geographic information between departments and agencies and to support citizen services. This will help modernise government and assist in meeting the 2005 e-government targets.

  Against this background, Ordnance Survey has proposed that there should be a Pan-Government Agreement which will make a wide range of Ordnance Survey data available to all organisations listed in the Civil Service Year Book.

  Users will be able to access up-to-date versions of any of these products at any time and interchange their own data overlaid on Ordnance Survey material. Separate arrangements will need to be agreed where a Department wishes to use Ordnance Survey material for commercial purposes or for purposes that could be seen to compete with commercial services marketed by others. This is because Competition law requires Ordnance Survey to treat all of its customers and partners equally where they are developing similar services.

  The proposal recognises that there will be a period of time over which new users will grow their use of geographic information and therefore proposes a phased increase in the price over four years. The figures are not finalised, but those under discussion at the moment are:

    2002 to 2003  £19,000,000

    2003 to 2004  £23,000,000

    2004 to 2005  £27,000,000

    2005 to 2006  £32,000,000

  To support new users and provide advice on how effective use of geographic information can reduce costs and improve processes, Ordnance Survey also proposes to establish a team of up to fifteen business development staff. The costs of this team are included in the figures of above.

  To reduce the administrative burden, Ordnance Survey believes that central funding is the most sensible way of establishing this agreement. The Office of the E-envoy was identified as a potential source of bidding for central funds. Unfortunately, this avenue has been closed as the E-envoy has higher priorities at this time and further, does not think that Treasury will be sympathetic to a central bid of this nature.

  Without central funding, departments and associated bodies will have to continue down the current line of consortia and one-to-one discussions with Ordnance Survey. Experience over the past few years has shown that this would inhibit the potential growth in the use of geographic information and therefore limit the benefits that would otherwise be gained. In addition it would be time consuming and inefficient.


  To further improve our 1:25,000 series mapping for the map user we have embarked on a number of changes that will be made public in March. For a number of years the Explorer series has been replacing the Pathfinder. This change is now in its final stages, but market research has shown that in maintaining the OLM and Explorer as separate series, many map users are still very confused. In light of this, we have taken a decision to absorb the OLM series into the Explorer series and so cover GB in a single 1:25,000 series.

  In the course of converting the OLM series, changes to the areas covered by the individual maps have had to take place, these changes are in the main minor.

    —  most double sided OLM's have remained unchanged in extent eg Isle of Arran;

    —  some has been converted into two single sheets covering the same area eg Galloway Forestpark;

    —  some have changed their extent radically eg Glen Coe;

    —  whilst others, mainly in England and Wales will have very minor changes to their extent in order to accommodate the more detailed, and therefore larger, Explorer legend eg Dark Peak.

1   Ordnance Survey Framework Document para 2.6.9. Back

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Prepared 24 June 2002