HL Deb 27 October 1994 vol 558 cc45-6WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the triennial review of Ordnance Survey.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater)

Ordnance Survey was established as an Executive Agency on 1 May 1990.

In 1993, an evaluation report concluded that Agency status had been a spur to significant improvements in performance. In particular, the acceleration of the conversion of the basic scales mapping archive to a computerised database, the good trading results in a difficult trading period and the attainment of challenging quality of service and output targets were important achievements in a highly creditable performance. These improvements and other innovations were recognised in 1993 by a Chartermark award.

In order to supplement a review undertaken by officials, consultants were appointed to look at options for the future status of Ordnance Survey. They assessed that Ordnance Survey would continue to progress well in its current status as an Executive Agency. They also believed that privatisation of Ordnance Survey offers potential benefits. The consultants found that various obstacles preclude this change of status in the immediate future and were also unable, at present, to quantify the full costs and benefits of privatisation. The consultants further concluded that "contractorisation" was the worst of the options examined. The Government accepts these conclusions and recognises that a final decision to privatise is not yet possible. Ordnance Survey will therefore continue as an Executive Agency for a further four years. A new Framework Document will be drawn up to cover the period. During this time the obstacles to privatisation will be investigated thoroughly with a view to clarifying and overcoming them so that the costs and benefits can be established. A further announcement and, if necessary, public consultation, will take place following this major review.

The consultants also recommended that a move to Trading Fund status would be beneficial for Ordnance Survey, whether or not privatisation was pursued eventually. This recommendation is accepted and we will be seeking to move Ordnance Survey to a Trading Fund basis from April 1996 over the next four years, Ordnance Survey will continue to develop its revenue-generating activities. Ordnance Survey will also continue to improve its efficiency in order to reduce further its costs to the taxpayer through contracting out wherever there is economic benefit, through collaborations with the private sector wherever appropriate and through innovative management. In addition, Ordnance Survey will seek to achieve all this without any diminution of the quality of its products and services which underpin many key activities of government and commerce in Britain.

A summary of the consultants' report has been placed in the Library.