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Ordnance Survey

Volume 931: debated on Friday 6 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is yet able to make a statement about the financial and pricing policy of the Ordnance Survey.

Yes. With a view to formulating long-term policy guidelines for the Ordnance Survey, the Government have decided to put in hand a study, in the context of national survey needs and in consultation with users, of the range and level of the Survey's activities, the basis on which costs should be incurred and charges made, and the interaction of these factors. The study will cover current and expected developments in the collection, presentation and utilisation of survey information and the quality of service required, both to meet the likely day-to-day demand and for any additional contingent needs. Account would be taken of the needs of the various categories of map user, such as the general public, professional and commercial users, public authorities and Government Departments.The Ordnance Survey is currently dependent on the Exchequer for about two-thirds of its costs, the remaining third coming from sales of maps, copyright fees and other products and services. We need not only to ensure that the Survey remains efficient but also to define the proper balance for the future between what proportion of the Ordnance Survey costs should be borne by the user and what proportion by the taxpayer.The full study will be directed primarily to the period beyond 1980, that is, after the completion of the re-survey of the country for which augmented staffing was introduced in 1966—the "1980 plan".For the intervening years the Ordnance Survey needs a basis on which to conduct its pricing policy and which will reflect the current need to contain public expenditure. I think it right for this purpose to assume that the Ordnance Survey should gradually increase the proportion of costs recovered through prices and charges. Thus, as soon as possible over the next five years, the Ordnance Survey will endeavour to: (

a) increase from one-fifth to about one-quarter the proportion of costs recovered on large-scale information and on the 1:25,000 series; ( b) achieve full cost recovery including servicing of capital on the small scale map and survey information.

The achievement of these objectives, which will be subject to annual review, would decrease the proportion of costs borne by the Exchequer from the present 65 per cent. to between 55 per cent. and 60 per cent. The prices will, of course, also be subject to commercial considerations and to Government pricing and charging policies.