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Ordnance Survey Department

Volume 236: debated on Monday 10 March 1930

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asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that a form of military conscription exists in the Ordnance Survey Department under which lads are only allowed to join the Department by undertaking to enter the Army on reaching the age of 18; and whether he will consider taking steps to abolish this system in a Government Department maintained by civil vote?

I can assure my hon. Friend that no form whatever of military conscription exists on the Ordnance Survey. The strength of the Royal Engineer Survey Companies of the Ordnance Survey Department is at present much below the authorised establishment, and arrangements are, therefore, made to engage only those boys who intend to enlist in the Royal Engineers on reaching the prescribed age of 18.

The military strength has been below the establishment for three years, and there has been no special order in the matter.


asked the Minister of Agriculture under what circumstances authority was given to increase the ultimate strength of the military personnel employed in the Ordnance Survey Department to that of a battalion; and whether he is aware that the effect of such an increase will result in the further depletion of the civilian staff beyond the numbers contemplated as a consequence of the recommendation of the Committee on National Expenditure?

The three Survey Companies have recently been reorganised into a Survey Battalion, but no alteration of establishment was involved by this change. The establishment of the companies was raised six years ago, however, on military grounds. The present strength is still much below that authorised. No civilians have been or will be discharged either on account of the increase made six years ago or on account of the reorganisation. The Committee on National Expenditure did not recommend any definite proportion of civilian staff on the Ordnance Survey.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as vacancies arise in this Department, they are filled by increasing the military strength?

The hon. Member is misinformed. All that has happened is that the military proportion is much below its strength, and it is being recruited.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us why the work of the Ordnance Survey, which is cartographical and essentially civilian, should be carried on by the military?

The point is that the Royal Engineers have survey companies, and these companies are below their strength.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the preponderating part of the work of the Department is of a commercial character?

I am well aware of that fact. The fact is that in these particular survey companies there are 299 men on the strength, while the authorised number is 450.