My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring a sustainable operating model for the Ordnance Survey so that it can continue to supply high-quality geographic information to Government and other users. Further details will be set out in the response to the consultation, Policy Options for Geographic Information from Ordnance Survey, which will be published by the end of March.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Clearly, the free availability of Ordnance Survey data is to be welcomed. The great concern is that the Prime Minister has already announced this week that the new arrangements for free data are to start on
No, my Lords, it certainly is not. I am conscious that this exchange will not be as productive as it might have been had our response to the consultation been published by now. We have made commitments to make sure that there is a sustainable business model. I hope when the noble Earl sees our response that he will accept that we have fulfilled those commitments.
My Lords, I never go anywhere without an Ordnance Survey map, even though I have sat-nav in the car. Some of us have experienced being sent down one-way streets the wrong way by sat-nav. I have looked at the consultation. In the changes anticipated, will I be guaranteed a paper OS map into the foreseeable future?
Yes, my Lords, OS will continue to provide high-quality paper maps for its many customers.
My Lords, it is well known that the Ordnance Survey is a world-class national mapping organisation and national treasure. It has so far been able to maintain its financial independence by having the freedom to license and to sell for itself the data it has available. With the data being freely distributed, as has just been announced, will it retain the vitality of being a self-financing organisation?
My Lords, the issue is the sustainability of its business model. Obviously, to the extent to which information is going to be made available freely, there will need to be changes to the existing business model. That is what our response to the consultation will show. I certainly agree with the noble and learned Lord that we have a world-class institution here.
Apart from the innate pleasure of answering Questions in your Lordships' House, sometimes you get the added pleasure of some really interesting information in the briefing. I can say that the OS database has mapped more than 440 million different topographic features, some 544,000 kilometres of motorable road and some 750,000 road names, the three most frequent of which are High Street, Station Road and Church Lane.
My Lords, the new arrangements come in on
The noble Viscount makes a good point. We have not just waited for the responses to accumulate with a view to dealing with them at the end of the consultation process; they have been addressed while the consultation has been under way. We are keen to make progress on this because it is very clear from the consultation that there is a real appetite to move in the direction that we are proposing.
My Lords, many of us who are keen hill walkers use Ordnance Survey maps all the time. Will my noble friend confirm that, although walkers' maps may not be the most profitable part of Ordnance Survey's output, they are absolutely essential and that nothing in the business model will damage our chance of continuing to use these maps?
My Lords, I must not pre-empt our response to the consultation but I believe that what my noble friend says will be the case.
My Lords, who is to blame for the fact that the Government have not yet published the results of the consultation? Is it the people who were consulted or those who were doing the consulting?
My Lords, the consultation started on
Do the Government consider Ordnance Survey to be primarily a public service or primarily an organisation intended to generate profits?
My Lords, Ordnance Survey's mission statement has been the subject of debate for some time. Obviously we see it as a key part of public service.
My Lords, what is the cost of the data being given free and will the funding be equal to it, greater or less?
My Lords, that is precisely the information that will be covered in the response, and the noble Lord will understand that it is difficult for me to pre-empt it.
My Lords, the consultation report said that to cover the cost of providing the products for free and maintain the very high standard of those products, an additional government grant of up to £40 million was needed. As this freebie starts next week, the Minister must have an idea, so can he confirm that £40 million will be provided? If not, how much will be?
My Lords, I cannot confirm that figure. I have tried to stress that it is difficult to answer this Question before we have put our response into the public domain. However, I reassert that we have made a commitment to ensure that the business model is sustainable, and obviously that will mean some form of funding to support the fact that some of the income streams will not be there in the future.
My Lords, if I am right in recalling that Ordnance Survey, like lighthouses and lifeboats, is run on an all-Ireland basis, what are the implications of these developments for the Irish authorities?
My Lords, these proposals relate just to Scotland, Wales and England. Ordnance Survey covers Great Britain and there are separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.
My Lords, we are proposing to start the new arrangements on
My Lords, does this apply also to the Hydrographic Office and the issuing of nautical charts for our navies and seamen around the British coast?
My Lords, I may need to write to the noble Lord to give him more detail on that. If those charts are produced by Ordnance Survey, the changes we will make will fall within the ambit of the review.
Has my noble friend noticed the apparent enthusiasm on the Benches opposite for an extension of public expenditure? Will he join me in hoping that that extension of public expenditure and the enthusiasm for it becomes infectious?
My noble friend as ever comes to my rescue. I agree with what he says.
My Lords, I must declare an interest as a former Minister for Ordnance Survey. Can the Minister give me any other recent example where a government response to consultation had not been published before an activity was initiated?
My Lords, I explained that we are going to publish our response in the next few days-by the end of March-and the actions proposed will follow that, not precede it.
My Lords, I understood the Minister to say that the consultation period ended on
My Lords, I do not think that is a full characterisation of the position in which we find ourselves.