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United Kingdom
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Posted - 19/02/2008 :  20:50:35  Show Profile
PRESS RELEASE - 4 Feb 2008

Locus Association calls on Government to endorse Select Committee recommendations

The Locus Association today welcomed a number of recommendations made in the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee report into Ordnance Survey (OS) and called on the Government to hold the OS to account over the Committee’s conclusions. Locus is in particular pleased that the Committee recognises the Ordnance Survey’s “potential to be a monopoly supplier competing unfairly with smaller, privately funded concerns” and urges the Government to address this in their response to the Committee.

Locus is however disappointed that the report does not insist that clearer boundaries are set for Ordnance Survey’s Public Task which currently are drafted very broadly and have been interpreted by Ordnance Survey to include the development of products already provided by the private sector or other parts of the public sector.

Key recommendations in the CLG report include:

• “Ordnance Survey is the only major public service information holder that does not distinguish in its annual accounts between the costs of and revenues from operations primarily conducted in pursuit of its public and private tasks”.

• “We recommend that it (Ordnance Survey) seek to distinguish as clearly as possible in its annual accounts between the activities it undertakes purely because it remains a quasi-governmental national mapping agency and those it conducts on a firmly commercial basis”.

• “The fact that OS has included clauses in licenses that effectively require competitors not to compete with it or complain about it provides a clear example of why both private sector and governmental organisations sometimes perceive it to be acting uncompetitively and unfairly. No such condition should again be included in any license”.

• “Confusion clearly exists over the extent to which the Re-use of Public Sector Information regulations apply to Ordnance Survey activities, and this confusion arises from the blurred distinction between its public and private tasks”.

Michael Nicholson, Locus Chairman, said “Locus welcomes today’s report for highlighting the potentially anti competitive nature of the contracts that are issued by Ordnance Survey to both its private sector and government partners. As the Committee rightly says “no such conditions should again be included in any licence”. The Committee also raises an important point over the current lack of clarity in the PSI arbitration and complaint process – a process Locus members have experienced first hand”.

He added, “The Association is pleased that the Committee recognises the lack of clarity in the boundaries of Ordnance Survey’s public task and that it recommends OS’s commercial activities need to be accounted for separately. Locus believes that failure to do so will result in commercial activities being continually funded by those which are part of the OS’s public task”.

- ENDS –

Notes for Editors:

1. Locus was established in autumn 2005 and formally launched on 26th January 2006. The Association’s President is a former Director General of the OFT and Oftel, Sir Bryan Carsberg.

2. The Association exists to raise awareness of, and promote the development of, a healthy and competitive private sector in relation to PSI. Locus acts as a forum for exchange of information, keeps its members up to date with latest policy developments, and provides advice and guidance. Our members recognise the potential of PSI, but also the benefit of uniting to address some of the challenges and pooling resources to meet them. It is worth noting that the particular nature of the PSI market structure, where individual private sector organisations have limited influence, lends itself to the development of a trade body.

3. The Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced an inquiry into Ordnance Survey in 2007. The report follows an inquiry from the Committee’s predecessor, the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, into Ordnance Survey’s operations in 2002. This report concluded, among other things that there was a “clear need to define the boundaries of Ordnance Survey public service and national interest work”.

4. Enquiries: Harriet Crosthwaite: 020 7930 9788 or harriet@quintuspa.com

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