HC Deb 08 December 1982 vol 33 cc846-7
21. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his proposals for the future of the Ordnance Survey.

Mr. Giles Shaw

In July of this year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a statement about the future of Ordnance Survey. It is still his intention that, subject to the approval of this House, a trading fund should be set up for Ordnance Survey on 1 April 1983. He expects to make a further statement about this soon.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that many of those who work for the Ordnance Survey are anxious that their future should be known, discussed and secured at the earliest opportunity? Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government have no intention of withdrawing recognition of the unique role that the Ordnance Survey plays in the life of this country?

Mr. Shaw

I think that I can give my hon. Friend both of those assurances. I have visited the Southampton centre for the Ordnance Survey and reassured those there that the discussions that have been taking place about the trading fund will not affect the Ordnance Survey's main objective. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that the core that is involved in the protection of the national archive in the Ordnance Survey will be subject to the contract between the Ordnance Survey and the Department, which is currently under negotiation.

Mr. Dubs

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many people will see the establishment of a trading fund as the first step towards privatising the Ordnance Survey? Is that his intention?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is an immense difference between the establishment of a trading fund and privatisation. In this case we seek to increase the range of activities in which the Ordnance Survey is engaged and to extend its marketing operation for maps and map products. That is what the trading fund will do. The core archive will be safeguarded.

Mr. Dover

Although the private sector welcomes the Minister's moves towards introducing some form of competition into surveying activities, does he accept that progress is still too slow and that the private sector is unhappy about the situation?

Mr. Shaw

I am aware that several private sector operators feel that increased freedom for the Ordnance Survey will be to their disadvantage. However, I must make it clear that the future will depend upon increasing the range of services for mapping and map reproduction to a point at which the market can be extended.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that our Ordnance Survey has been internationally famous and admired under Governments of whatever colour? Because of the Government's lust for privatisation and personal profit, do they intend to risk doing something that previous Governments have never wanted to do? Does that not prove the sheer wickedness of the Government's approach to things that have been cherished for many years?

Mr. Shaw

Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman has entirely misunderstood the situation. The Ordnance Survey can now enter joint publishing ventures and several of its products are already on the bookstalls. Thus, it can extend the range of its services and the use of its products. The maintenance of the core archive, for which it is so famous, will continue.