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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Ordnance Survey shake-up attacked
Tourist reading a map
Ordnance Survey says it wants to take on other firms
Plans to change the status of mapmaker Ordnance Survey have been attacked by an influential group of MPs.

The Commons Urban Affairs Select Committee said proposals to turn the firm into a limited company, owned by the government, would be an unacceptable "step towards privatisation".


Ordnance Survey has experienced no problems with borrowing while operating as a trading fund

Committee chairman Andrew Bennett
The MPs warned moves to put Ordnance Survey on the same commercial footing as Consignia could see it follow the former Post Office into crisis.

Ministers have already said they were "minded" to approve the plans for the 200-year-old mapmaker, and an announcement is expected before Parliament breaks up for the summer recess on 24 July.

The change could be completed by next year and has the support of Ordance Survey director general Vanessa Lawrence.

The government said it has no plans for privatisation, which could raise an estimated 500m.

Greater freedom

Committee chairman Andrew Bennett warned that changing the status of Ordnance Survey would risk its financial stability and threaten its long-term survival.

He said: "This would be a step towards privatisation and would be pushing Ordnance Survey down the same route as the beleaguered Royal Mail/Consignia.

"Such a transition will not address Ordnance Survey's real problems."

The review of Ordnance Survey said turning it into a limited company would give it greater freedom and make it more competitive.

OS, which is based in Southampton, said the move would allow it to borrow money more easily and offer higher pay to attract better staff.

But the committee's report said: "Ordnance Survey has experienced no problems with borrowing while operating as a trading fund."

'Timely'

The report said other countries which have put their mapping agencies on a more commercial footing have seen the quality of maps decline.

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for Ordance Survey, said: "The Government welcomes this timely report and will take account of and carefully consider all the conclusions the committee has reached."

Set up in 1791, Ordnance Survey is known for making maps for walkers, but makes most of its money selling surveys to government departments and architects.

See also:

05 Mar 01 | Business
15 Mar 02 | UK Education
15 Oct 01 | England
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