Ordnance Survey Ireland Bill, 2001 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The proposed change in the status of OSI will be an important event for its staff. Because of this, the Minister for Finance met staff representatives very shortly after the Government decided to draft the Bill to discuss its general content and to listen to their concerns. The response of the staff associations was welcoming to the idea of setting up the Ordnance Survey as a State body. Shortly after the Bill was published, OSI staff representatives had a meeting at official level to discuss a number of issues of concern to them. During the intervening period, updates on the status of the Bill were regularly conveyed to staff representatives at local level within OSI and following publication of the Bill, the management of OSI made arrangements through the local departmental council and a series of information seminars to inform all staff, not only in Dublin but also in the regional offices, on the content of the proposed legislation as well as to discuss issues arising from it. Accordingly, OSI staff are fully aware of the Bill's provisions as they affect them and of all other matters in the Bill.

Negotiations on a wide range of issues of concern to staff are taking place with their representatives to try to ensure a smooth transition to OSI's new status. These negotiations should be helped by the staff's awareness that the ability to exploit the considerable commercial possibilities open to OSI depends on having the freedom of continuing to adapt to changing technological and user needs and that this can only be achieved outside a Civil Service framework.

It is relevant to say at this point that the OSI's headquarters in the Phoenix Park and the operation of OSI's six regional offices, which are located in Cork, Ennis, Longford, Kilkenny, Sligo and Tuam, are not mentioned in the Bill and are therefore not affected by it. The Phoenix Park premises are acknowledged not to be ideal for a modern mapping organisation, largely because the mapping production process is spread out between several separate buildings. The question of the relocation of OSI's headquarters in the Phoenix Park will, however, be decided on in the context of the Government's decentralisation programme.

As I mentioned earlier, the staff of OSI has achieved the complete transformation of all aspects of map-making through continually adopting the latest mapping technology over many years and has brought OSI to a point where it now has the potential for a dramatic expansion of and improvement in the range of products and services which it can provide to its customers. The achievement of this potential depends on the staff of OSI giving their strong support for the proposed new structure. I am confident that this support will continue to be given.

I will now outline for the House the more important provisions of the Bill. Section 3 formally establishes a new body, to be known as Ordnance Survey Ireland, separate from the Civil Service which will have its own powers. Section 4 sets out in detail the functions that are to be performed by the body. The OSI's general function is to provide national mapping services for the administrative, legislative and infrastructural and other needs of the State. The OSI will be the national mapping service in the State and it will operate in the public interest by creating and maintaining the definitive national mapping and geographical records of the State. In other words, the Bill provides that OSI's traditional role for the last 177 years will continue. Among the tasks that OSI will have to carry out in fulfilling its functions are the maintenance of the physical infrastructure to support mapping applications; creating and maintaining consistent mapping databases; advising the Government on mapping issues; providing technical support to the chief boundary surveyor; depicting Irish language place names as advised by An Coimisiún Logainmneacha, which is now part of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands; and protecting Government copyright on all OSI data. This section also places a general duty of care on the new body to conduct all its business, both commercial and non-commercial, in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Sections 5 and 6 allow the Minister for Finance to give general policy directions to OSI and to confer additional functions on OSI. Section 7 allows OSI – with the consent of the Minister – to establish by itself or with partners subsidiary companies with limited liability when engaging in commercial activity. It is a key element of the Bill that the OSI, when engaging in commercial activity, does so through subsidiary companies with limited liability set up under the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1999. In addition, any necessary capital will not come from the public purse – instead, it will be raised in the marketplace by reference to the commercial merits of the project concerned. There are two main advantages to this approach. The first is that the Exchequer's liability in potential loss-making situations is limited. The second advantage is that, by keeping commercial activity separate from national interest mapping activity, cross-subsidisation from the Exchequer is avoided.

Section 8 allows the OSI to hold and dispose of shares or other interests in a company with the consent of the Minister and section 9 allows the OSI or any subsidiary to borrow money, subject to any limit the Minister may set.

Section 10 gives OSI staff powers to enter private lands and premises in connection with the carrying out of its functions. It also authorises OSI to place survey marks on any land or premises for the purposes of supporting the national grid or geodetic or height frameworks. Where an authorised person is prevented from entering lands or premises when carrying out OSI's functions, there is provision in the Bill for a warrant to be obtained from the District Court to allow the required access. Obstruction of a member of OSI staff in the exercise of his or her powers under the section will be an offence, as will the intentional destruction or removal of an OSI survey mark. A person found guilty of an offence under this section will be liable on summary conviction to a fine.

Sections 11 to 13 provide that there shall be a board of Ordnance Survey Ireland and that members may be remunerated out of funds at the disposal of OSI. These sections also contain provisions in relation to the appointment of a chairperson and ordinary board members as well as to the meetings and procedures of the board.

Section 14 provides for the appointment of a chief executive officer of OSI. The chief executive officer will be appointed by the board and will hold office subject to the terms and conditions that may be determined by the board, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The chief executive officer will be responsible for the staff, administration and business of OSI. He or she will be the person charged with the day-to-day running of the new OSI and the carrying out of its functions under the Bill and will be answerable to the board. The chief executive officer will be responsible for the propriety of OSI's accounts and the economic and efficient use of its resources and will be answerable to any committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas set up to examine its affairs.

Sections 15 to 17 set out the provisions for the transfer of staff from the Civil Service to the new body. There are three important elements to these provisions. The first is that staff of the Ordnance Survey will all transfer to the new body on establishment day. The second is a guarantee that the terms and conditions relating to employment tenure and pay will not be less favourable in the new body than those prevailing before the changeover date. The third is a guarantee that the terms and conditions of any superannuation scheme for the staff of the new body will not be less favourable than those prevailing before the changeover date.

Sections 20 to 22 provide for the disclosure of interests by staff, members of the board of OSl and directors of a company which has been set up as a subsidiary of OSI.

Section 25 provides that the Minister may make an agreement – called a "service agreement"– with OSI which will deal with the performance of its public functions. This is a key element of the Bill. The service agreement will set out in detail the range of activities OSI will carry out in the public interest and the amount of the subsidy from the Exchequer for doing so. Apart from ensuring that OSI will perform its public interest tasks, another important benefit of the service agreement is that, by clearly identifying these tasks, it will also prevent the cross-subsidisation from the public purse of any commercial activity of OSI.

Section 27 provides for the keeping of accounts and the conduct of audits of the financial accounts of Ordnance Survey Ireland. Responsibility for the accounts rests with the chief executive officer. These accounts will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the auditor's report will be laid before the Oireachtas. Section 28 provides that OSI will make an annual report to the Minister. Section 30 expressly allows OSI to charge for its products and services. Sections 32 to 36 deal with the dissolution of the existing Ordnance Survey and the transfer of assets, liabilities, contracts and pending legal proceedings to the new body.

The Ordnance Survey was established in 1824 to provide a national mapping service. The operational environment has changed dramatically in recent years and there now is a need for Ordnance Survey Ireland to become a more clearly focused business organisation, while at the same time continuing its public service role. This Bill allows the OSI to build on the strengths it already possesses and gives it freedom to operate with a more commercial focus while ensuring that it continues, with the appropriate public interest safeguards, to create and maintain the definitive national mapping and geographic records of the State.

I commend this Bill to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. The Ordnance Survey has a very proud tradition, having been established 177 years ago in 1824, and has served this country remarkably well. The dedication of the staff – in the early stages providing maps which were designed by hand and may well be described as works of art – has changed in the interim years in that machinery and technology have moved forward and map-making is now a much more advanced technology. Perhaps the old skills are not as useful as they were in the past, but nonetheless the Ordnance Survey continues to provide a very valuable service.

Mapping is an important part of the development of a country and Ordnance Survey has played a vital role in providing maps in Ireland. The maps and the surveying done over the decades, and in some cases more than a century ago, still stand to the good and are a valuable record. The various landmarks, archaeological sites, etc., were all recorded on those Ordnance Survey maps and they are treasures from the past.

Ordnance Survey maps still play a vital role. If one seeks planning permission in any part of the country, one must provide an Ordnance Survey map indicating the site, etc., and that plays an important role in the granting of a planning permission. Ordnance Survey maps also play an important role in the system of agricultural income supports for farmers, where, for area aid, maps must be produced showing the outline of their holdings and those are plotted on master maps to make sure there is not duplication. The staff of the Ordnance Survey do a tremendous job and we must commend them for it.

The Ordnance Survey's work on the archaeological front was its greatest contribution to the country, where it mapped our ancient monuments, indicated where they were and in many cases provided valuable information which prevented those archaeological sites from being destroyed.

As a youngster, I recall a schoolmaster who was very interested in ordnance survey. He was fascinated by the various indications of elevation above sea level. Benchmarks had a different meaning in those days and he took great pride in asking students to find out where the benchmarks were in their area, in showing them marked on the maps, etc. There was a benchmark – a little flat piece with three legs – carved into the stone on the side of the Christian Brothers house and, in an act which in more modern times might be described as defacing an item of public interest or public monument, he went to the trouble of painting it white so that students would notice it and wonder what it was. It is still there to this day, painted in the way he painted it. It was an important indication of sea level.

Many of those indicators which were put in place by the Ordnance Survey in the past are disappearing and it is now more difficult to find those marks. I noticed recently that the wall on which one of the benchmarks which this old teacher pointed out to us no longer exists. I do not know whether there is an obligation on the people concerned to replace the wall and whether there is a benchmark at the required level. Are there regulations governing the removal of these items? Is someone checking whether they existed and is it controlled and regulated?

There are a lot of regulations and laws.

There have been rapid changes. The computerisation of maps has made a great difference to the provision of services which can be provided a great distance from where the information is stored.

In case I misled the Deputy, when I said there are a lot of regulations and laws I was not referring specifically to the Ordnance Survey, but to a wider issue. It does not arise under the Ordnance Survey.

Despite the huge demand for existing services such as maps for area aid, extensification, farming, archaeological and planning purposes, the Ordnance Survey still has a need for State subsidy. This is something which must be borne in mind when establishing the Ordnance Survey as a separate body.

The Minister of State referred to the fact that the Ordnance Survey's greatest resource is its staff. In making changes relating to the Ordnance Survey how the staff will be affected must be a primary concern. The Fine Gael spokesman, Deputy Jim Mitchell, and I had volumes of correspondence from individuals and trade unions in regard to the treatment of staff who will be affected by the change in status of the Ordnance Survey. Just before I came to the Chamber I received a telephone call from my colleague, Deputy Belton. As the Minister of State will be aware, there is an Ordnance Survey office in Longford and the Deputy is very familiar with the staff there. There are major concerns among the staff in Longford regarding their future – I received a telephone call from a member of the staff today. In his speech the Minister of State said on numerous occasions that the staff were the greatest resource. He stated as follows:

The achievement potential depends on the staff of the OSI giving their strong support for the proposed new structure. I am confident that this support will continue to be given.

What I am hearing from the staff currently working in the Ordnance Survey is that they have major concerns. They believe they have not been included in the negotiations and discussions on their future and have various concerns about what will happen to them. Some concerns are based on the fact that up to now they have been civil servants. As civil servants they had the opportunity of interdepartmental promotions, transferring from one Department to another and the security of being civil servants which they enjoyed and was a great benefit. However, under the Bill they will lose their Civil Service status. They will no longer have an opportunity to transfer to other Department on promotion or otherwise. Neither will they have the security which they have had up to now. They will not even have the same possibility for promotion, which is a major concern. I am very disappointed that staff members and trade unions have used such strong language in regard to how they have been treated. I will quote from a letter from Mr. Peter Nolan, Assistant General Secretary, IMPACT, to Deputy Michael Noonan on 6 September which reads as follows:

The Union has been supportive of the broad thrust of the Bill. However, serious concerns have arisen regarding the failure of the Minister and his officials to honour commitments given to all Unions on consultation.

He goes on to say:

As stated, the Union has from the outset been supportive of measures to improve the commercial focus of O.S.I. The exclusion of the provision for directly elected Worker Directors is viewed with alarm by the Union and staff. The Union's belief is that this is a calculated omission.

He continues in that vein. He also wrote to the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, on 6 April stating as follows:

Understandably, the Union's primary concern is to guarantee the conditions of employment of its members and recognises that the legislation provides some protection in this regard for members. However, the Union is clearly of the belief that consultation with Unions has not been adequate in the matter.

He then goes on to refer to meetings that were set up, including one which was cancelled at short notice. The message which seems to be coming through from the staff of the OSI is that there has not been proper consultations or negotiations in regard to their concerns, which concerns me.

In recent days I received correspondence from IMPACT enclosing a synopsis of interim returns for the Ordnance Survey Ireland questionnaire. OSI staff who are members of IMPACT received a questionnaire asking a number of simple questions – one could say they were leading questions. When asked did they wish to retain their individual Civil Service status 137 members answered "Yes" while there were two spoilt votes. An overwhelming majority wish to retain their Civil Service status. When asked did they agree with the decision to change the status of the OSI, 27 answered "Yes" while 114 answered "No." When asked had they been significantly involved in the change of status programme – this is an issue about which the Minister of State might be able to do something at this late stage – 135 of 144 members said they were not significantly involved in this issue. They believe this is being done over their heads, which is a very poor start to the establishment of this new body. It is bad from a public relations and OSI point of view, for inter-staff relations and will not get the new body off on a good footing. The Minister of State has an opportunity to do something about this. When members were asked had their views been sought on the change of status, 133 out of 144 answered "No." When asked did they want the Dublin office to remain in the Phoenix Park – just Dublin members were asked that question – 64 said "Yes" and four said "No." That is more or less the result of the survey.

The Minister of State has a lot of questions to answer. I hope when summing up he will respond to the concerns of the staff, the major one being loss of Civil Service status. What guarantees can he give the staff? Will they be able to transfer to other Departments in the future or will they be stuck with the OSI? If they will be stuck with the OSI, what guarantee can the Minister of State give them that they can transfer to other Departments beforehand if they wish to do so? I hope he will be in a position to give firm commitments in regard to that issue.

On the question of decentralisation, everyone agrees the premises in the Phoenix Park is not very satisfactory in terms of facilities for the OSI. Perhaps the building can be improved or another building found. The staff are concerned that the Minister of State in his speech said the question of the relocation of the OSI's headquarters in the Phoenix Park will, however, be decided on in the context of the Government's decentralisation programme. How does this tie in with the OSI moving away from the Civil Service and becoming a separate State body? If the OSI is a State body, how can the Government state it is at arm's length from it, that the staff are not civil servants, but it will move them? Perhaps they could be moved to Castlepollard, County Westmeath, or Caherciveen, County Kerry. The staff are concerned that they could be moved just like that. As indicated in the survey, staff in the Dublin office overwhelmingly wished to stay in that office. Under this Bill OSI will become a State body, following which employees will not then have the option of transferring to other Departments. What will the Minister say to the 64 people currently working in the Dublin office? It is not fair to treat staff in that way and I hope the Minister will address this issue.

Other concerns of staff relate to the viability of the new OSI. There seems to be a rumour among staff that there will be a reduction in staff numbers of perhaps up to one third. If that happens when the new body is established, will staff have the option of voluntary redundancy or be forced to take compulsory redundancy, or will they get the option of transferring to a Department? I ask the Minister to examine this issue and what will happen if it arises.

The Minister said that the various offices around the country would remain, but can he guarantee that they will remain for good? It is not so long ago since those offices were established. I remember the office being set up in Longford and many people who were previously commuting to Dublin were glad. If such offices closed, how could employees continue to rear families in the area? Ways of overcoming such a development must be examined.

Other people have raised a number of items of concern. The new body will not be fully commercial but will receive a subsidy from the State, which I welcome. The OSI does an important job and is worthy of subsidisation from the State. Nonetheless, we must be careful in terms of the level of subsidisation so as to ensure the OSI can do its necessary and very valuable work. We must continue to make and upgrade maps and include new developments as they occur. It has been pointed out to me that many maps have been unrevised for decades, which surprised me. For example, the most recent OSI maps for the Aran Islands are dated 1899 and they are still used for land transfer, planning permission, agriculture, REPS, area aid etc. Many of the new roads being built are not on the maps and the scale of the maps is not suitable for modern day works. I believe the same applies to many areas along the western seaboard. In the past OSI received substantial amounts of money from the State and was in the process of revising maps, and the concern is whether this process will continue. Will maps for the Aran Islands and many other parts of the country continue to be updated at the same pace? The Minister should give commitments in this regard.

Another point made to me about section 4 relates to maps of prisons, Army barracks etc. In the past those maps were not made available to the public and I wonder if such provision will be built into the Bill. Is it necessary to include a specific section stating that the protocol under which the public could not have access to such secure areas will continue?

There are concerns about the transfer of staff to other Departments and the apparent breakdown in communication between staff, the Department and the Minister in negotiating this package. I ask the Minister to get his finger out in this context and to talk to the staff and their representatives. Perhaps he should even visit regional offices and hear at first hand the concerns of people. It is only by doing this that he can win over people. He must give them the necessary assurances so as to ensure this new body will have the support, trust and confidence necessary to get off the ground. It will not be an easy change for staff and I hope the Minister will take up the suggestions I have made.

It is normal in State bodies to have worker directors on boards. However, there is no such provision in this Bill. In addition, the number of directors, varying from four to nine, seems restricted and perhaps the Minister should re-examine this section.

I wish to raise the remit of OSI in terms of place names, which play a very important role. There are fantastic names on townlands through out the country which carry with them a wealth of history. In the past people made studies of particular areas with interesting place names, which carry with them a tremendous amount of heritage. Unfortunately, the use of place names is dying out, particularly in urban and built up areas where there are new housing estates. Some housing estates are given the most appalling and totally inappropriate names. In my area there is the townland of Robinstown and a developer called an estate he built there Sherwood Park. Maybe he was thinking of Robin Hood, but it leaves a lot to be desired. OSI has a tradition in terms of naming places and townlands, and perhaps the Minister will consider a voluntary body to look at place names and names for housing estates. We try to do it on a local basis, but it is not very effective as we do not have the necessary clout. I am sure the Minister will hear from Members some appalling names of housing estates which bear no relation to Ireland or the wealth of local history. We should try to put in place some mechanism so that names such as Sherwood Park do not arise and that more thought and consideration is given to naming estates.

Modern ordnance survey maps show ESB lines, high tension cables etc. However, much of that cabling is now being put underground in ducts and I wonder if that ducting will be marked on OS maps in future. Fibre optic cables are also being laid throughout the country and it is important that they appear on OS maps. Perhaps OSI will bear this in mind. It might also be necessary to bring forward a regulation to ensure that provision is made for a comprehensive approach to the installation of ducting. There is hardly a street in this city which is not being ripped up for ducting of some description. Can we introduce a provision to ensure that sufficient ducting is put down which will last for a considerable time when the streets are initially being dug up? It is particularly important that we incorporate ducting into our new major roads and bridges.

A ridiculous situation arose recently when fibre optic cables were being brought across the River Shannon in Athlone. The bypass around Athlone is only about ten years old and the road had to be dug up to facilitate this project as ducting had not been provided. Taxpayers have paid a huge amount of money for the provision of such amenities and it is ridiculous that there was no forethought in terms of including ducting to ensure traffic is not disrupted again. Those are issues he should review and respond to on Second Stage. Our party welcomes the general thrust of the Bill and the establishment of the OSI as a semi-State body. However, we have reservations, particularly concerning the guarantees and commitments being given to the staff, and will bring forward a number of amendments on Committee Stage to deal with them.

One of the useful things about a Bill of this kind is that it allows us the opportunity to shine the light on a section of the public service on which not much light has been shone in recent years. As the Minister of State and Deputy McGrath pointed out, this is the first opportunity the House has had to discuss in a legislative context the activities of the Ordnance Survey.

I associate myself with the remarks of the Minister of State and Deputy McGrath about the work done by the Ordnance Survey during the years. It has performed an extremely useful function in providing maps for a variety of purposes, including leisure, tourism, guiding people around the country, planning, etc. From my background as a solicitor I am aware that it has provided maps, which have been of use in land transfers. This was not always done as promptly as some might have liked, but I know systems have improved in recent years.

That is the point of the Bill. As technology has improved, we now look at things in a different way. Whereas previously it was necessary to draw maps, now computerised models generate maps. I was fascinated by some of what the Minister of State had to say in that regard and what people in the Ordnance Survey have told me about the global mapping that is now possible working from satellite. This has almost Big Brother type implications, but clearly we welcome the march of progress in that regard.

In that context, it was inevitable that we would look at the structure and purpose of the OSI. From the outset I acknowledge that my party leader, as Minister for Finance, had a role in the decision in 1997 to establish the interim board under Mr. Bonner to consider the future structure of the OSI. On speaking to him in recent weeks he felt there needed to be greater commercial opportunities for the OSI. Currently less than 10% of the OSI's total activity could be termed commercial and there must be scope to increase it.

This falls neatly into what I would like to see happening in commercial semi-State bodies. We have to preserve the public service element, but also allow them to become involved in commercial activities producing products that can be sold to the private sector. This can be for tourism, for people who want to walk in the mountains or who want to sell or exchange land. There is a role in the commercial sector, which has not previously been exploited and which needs to be exploited now.

Is it necessary to change the status of the OSI to do this? I confess to being almost agnostic on this. It would have been possible to do so while retaining the public service element of its operations within the Civil Service. Having read the Bill carefully I notice the potential structure to establish subsidiary companies to deal with commercial activity. It was not imperative that the remaining section of the OSI had to come out of the Civil Service. I am not saying it is wrong, but it was not necessary. I am aware that it was driven by the report of the interim board which felt strongly that being within the Civil Service was holding the Ordnance Survey back. I am sorry that people believe that should be the case, but I appreciate that was the finding and view of the interim board and in common with the workforce, I am willing to go with it.

The trade union representing most of the workforce has been told that Government envisages the vast bulk of the work done by the Ordnance Survey will still be public work. Up to 90% of the work will fall within the non-commercial sector. That is disappointing. It should have been possible to expand beyond that relatively low level. The Minister of State needs to tell us more about the economic modelling and other work which has been done to explore possibilities for commercial activity within the Ordnance Survey. The primary purpose of the Bill was to expand this commercial activity. If we do not do this, we acknowledge from the start that the primary purpose of the Bill is not likely to be met satisfactorily.

Deputy McGrath comprehensively dealt with concerns of the staff; I wish to amplify some of them. There has been concern about the consultative process. Members of the House – not just Deputies Mitchell, McGrath and me – have been approached by individual workers in the Ordnance Survey and also by the trade union representing most of them. They were not happy with the consultative process.

The Minister of State has gone to great lengths to spell out what was done in an effort to consult with people and I am aware that occasionally it is necessary to reach the brink before people take in all that is said. However, clearly there is a problem. Much of the workforce did not take in what was being said.

The survey results read out by Deputy McGrath are quite striking. I accept they cover only about two thirds of the workforce, but the bulk of those who responded said negative things. They said they did not want their status or that of the OSI changed; they did not believe they were involved in the change programme, etc. All that is pretty damning and is reflected in the IMPACT press release last week, which is considerably more negative than the position the union previously took. For example, IMPACT states the change in status proposed in the Bill is unlikely to achieve its stated aim of making the Ordnance Survey more commercial. Instead the union fears a hidden motive to pare down operations with a corresponding decline in services, jobs and career opportunities. If this were the case, it would be a pretty damning indictment.

My first and so far only exposure to the OSI was during the unfortunate industrial relations problems of recent years, with which the Minister of State is familiar. At one stage we had an Adjournment Debate on the issue. I will not get into the merits of that now, but the Minister of State knows that considerably soured relations within the Ordnance Survey for a period. It is still not entirely resolved and some of the bad feeling from that series of incidents is still sadly there. It is in that context that we must look at the con sultative process that has taken place since. Regardless of however satisfied the Minister of State and the Department are with the process, unfortunately the workforce as represented by its union or by contacts made by individuals to me, believes it was not satisfactory. That is not a good sign or a good way to start this change.

I come to the financial aspects and particularly the way the Bill siphons off the public service elements from the rest. I am unclear of the extent to which the subsidiary company or companies will be independent of the main body. Will they, in effect, be entirely separate commercial outlets? Will they be able to define a role for themselves? Will that role be defined for them by the Minister of State, giving one of his general policy guidelines? Will they, in effect, be independent companies operating entirely for themselves, retaining their profits and making commercial decisions on a day-by-day basis independent of—

They will be based on the commercial merits of any project.

Does the Minister of State see that occurring independent of ministerial guidelines or does he see the Minister using the power in the Bill to give guidelines to the survey generally as to how it does its—

Only in very exceptional circumstances where large commercial decisions are taken.

I am not unhappy with that structure but it is important that it should be spelled out. It may, in turn, have implications for people working for one of the subsidiary companies and perhaps the Minister of State can clarify whether their status is guaranteed as set out in the legislative provision before us. Will they continue to retain the superannuation benefits and so on that are set out in the Bill and will they benefit from the guarantees set out in the Bill?

As the Minister of State will know, there is particular concern about the regional offices and the office in the Phoenix Park. I have not been to the Phoenix Park office so I do not know what it is like. I have heard fairly negative stories about it. On the other hand, it does not surprise me that people who are used to working in a particular place want to remain working there. I will not tell the Minister of State that he should not change, move or refurbish it but there is a policy issue concern as to whether regional offices should be retained. I am not sure that I would take as sanguine a view as that taken by Deputy McGrath of what the Minister of State said in his contribution. My understanding of what he said is that no decision is made in the Bill one way or the other, and I did not take it to offer the degree of comfort Deputy McGrath seemed to think it contained. The Minister of State might explicitly address the question of whether he sees a role for regional offices. I realise some offices employ a relatively small number of people but it is important that those people know whether they are to stay in the centres where they currently work or are to be decentralised in another location.

Unfortunately, Ordnance Survey Ireland is not the only State body suffering from a measure of insecurity. It is unfortunate from its point of view that the whole argument and the business of decentralisation should intersect with this change of status because, in effect, it is mixing two different elements which should not be mixed. Nonetheless, if one were working there one would feel entitled to be told where one's job will be located and where one will be working in a year's time. One would also like to be told that one will actually have a job in a year's time. I accept that the Bill guarantees a status and the terms, but if the company is restructured in a way where individuals do not have a job, there is more than one way of effectively obliging somebody to take up their bags and go. I am aware that IMPACT, in particular, is concerned that it would be possible to reduce the workforce from its current 250 to perhaps in the region of 150 – there are suggestions and rumours within the office about that. Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us if he envisages that the new body will carry out a redundancy scheme. I presume he will confirm that that would be voluntary. Perhaps he will also confirm that people in those circumstances would be entitled to transfer to within the service because that is of some importance to people.

The issue of worker directors has been exercising the minds of some of the membership. I do not understand where the Department and the Minister of State are coming from on this issue. I understood that the principle of appointing worker directors to semi-State companies was long since accepted. Even during the tenure of this Government, I am aware that new bodies set up have had worker directors or worker representatives on them. I suspect, as I tend to do in these circumstances, the hand of the Minister for Finance and his particular ideological vent in these matters. Perhaps he will take the opportunity to confirm that my suspicions in this regard are not justified. Four plus one would make up a very small board. Perhaps the Minister of State will indicate the number he envisages will be on the board. Obviously, we would wish to see, and on Committee Stage we will seek to include, an appropriate number of worker directors.

Deputy McGrath raised an issue during the course of his final remarks which I had not thought about but which is of some importance in Dublin and will be, I suspect, of increasing importance in future years, that is, the business of underground mapping. This city is criss-crossed with all measure of utilities and will be, in future years, criss-crossed by tunnels. That process has already started. The port tunnel is under construction and part of the Luas will be under ground also. I am aware that as far as local authorities are concerned, they have little or no idea of what is under ground. Some of the sewers etc. have been there since Victorian days, if not earlier. Do we have that information? If not, there is a role for somebody, whether it is Ordnance Survey Ireland or whoever, in putting it together because there is a lot happening down there and we do not seem to be entirely clear as to exactly what is the story.

On another issue raised by Deputy McGrath, I believe I am right in saying that the Planning and Development Bill gives some powers to local authorities to do something about names. I will not get into the business of naming some of the more awful place names that are in my constituency but it is true that there are some and it is not before time that this should be dealt with.

I support the principle behind the Bill. I support giving a much greater commercial remit to Ordnance Survey Ireland. I am not totally convinced that it is necessary for the main body to be taken outside the Civil Service but, nonetheless, I am willing to trust the judgment of the interim board in that regard. There are serious questions still to be answered which, I hope, will give comfort to the staff in terms of the location of their offices and the permanency of their jobs. If the Minister of State cannot tease out some of those questions today, I hope we will be able to do so at a later stage.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael Kitt.

That is agreed.

This may not be the most interesting Bill to come before the House—

That is a great start.

—but ordnance survey has a fascinating history in Ireland. Ordnance Survey Ireland has had a reputation for quality since it was established in 1824. It has provided the public with a mapping service for the past 177 years and its maps are widely recognised as the definitive article. The first survey was carried out to calculate areas of townlands for fiscal purposes and the whole island of Ireland was mapped at an unprecedented scale of six inches to the mile. Ordnance Survey Ireland designed some of its own surveying equipment and 2,100 men were used to carry out the survey, which took 20 years. That was a major undertaking at the time and the results continue to be impressive today. A second major survey was conducted between 1887 and 1916 when the whole country was resurveyed at a much larger scale – 25 inches to the mile. Many of the maps we associate with ordnance survey during the 20th century were derived from this survey and the fledgling Irish State was bequeathed an up-to-date and wide-ranging mapping archive in 1922. I outline that history because it is important, and the Minister of State in his contribution mentioned a number of items regarding the history of Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Ordnance Survey Ireland has seen many changes during its lifetime. Its first survey predates the Great Famine and captures a record of the landscape when Ireland had a population approaching eight million. Its new surveys of the past few decades have captured a very different Ireland, where urbanisation and farm mechanisation have altered the landscape dramatically. The technology of surveying and mapping has changed utterly in the latter half of the 20th century. Today's surveys are ten times more accurate and can be carried out at one tenth of the cost.

Ordnance Survey Ireland has had a close relationship with the military for most of its history, first with the Royal Engineers of the British army and subsequently with the Corps of Engineers of the Irish Defence Forces. That has changed recently and, for the first time in its long history, Ordnance Survey Ireland is now totally civilianised and is preparing to take its first steps into the commercial marketplace.

Ordnance Survey Ireland's mapping service was originally intended only for administrative functions by central Government but when the public became aware of the importance of the maps during the 1850s, it was decided to make them available to the public also. This continued until the present day and now Ordnance Survey Ireland maps are used in many aspects of modern life.

The functions of Ordnance Survey Ireland should be to produce and maintain topographic maps to assist infrastructural, social and economic development; to produce and maintain cadastral maps of property boundaries for title registrations; to produce official State maps of electoral and administrative boundaries for Government and commercial uses – all Members will be interested in that part of its function; to provide and maintain a national framework of survey points to international standards for mapping and scientific use; and to periodically capture a comprehensive record of the national landscape for historical purposes.

The future role of the Ordnance Survey should be that of facilitator to ensure the provision of surveying and mapping services via a range of public-private partnerships. This can be done in a number of ways. First, the public and private mapping sectors need to jointly develop a range of service improvements for mapping for clients and members of the public. They should formally agree a separation and responsibility for individual tasks to supply this need. Second, the Ordnance Survey should take a lead role in the establishment of a national spatial data infrastructure to identify and supply a range of mapping related services to optimise use of GIS technology at all levels in society and empower the public and improve decision making. Third, the Ordnance Survey should establish a research institute to conduct and fund research to develop ideas, stan dards and methodologies to improve its service provision.

I have been requested by the Irish Institute of Surveyors to raise a number of issues with the Minister of State and ask him to consider a number of amendments. Section 4 deals with the functions of the OSI. Section 4(2)(f) provides that it will “represent the State at international level on matters related to mapping and geographic information.” This should be amended to clarify what interests the OSI should represent and the paragraph should read that the OSI will “represent the State at international level on matters related to official mapping and geographic information.”

Section 4(2)(e) provides that the OSI shall “advise the Government, a Minister of the Government, a body established by or under statute and other public sector organisations on matters relating to the policy and practice of survey, mapping and geographic information and on the development of national spatial data infrastructures.” This function should be removed by deleting this paragraph and inserting a new one to read: “An advisory committee will be established to advise the Government, a Minister of the Government, a body established by or under statute and other public sector organisations on matters relating to the policy and practice of survey, mapping and geographic information and on the development of national spatial data infrastructures. Advisory committee members shall be appointed from the OSI, the Land Registry Office, the Irish Institute of Surveyors and the Irish Organisation of Geographical Information.”

Section 25(1) provides that the Minister "shall" from time to time make an agreement with OSI (a "service agreement") that certain tasks shall be carried out, functions performed or standards adhered to in the performance of its functions in the public interest, and such agreement may encompass such other supplementary matters as the Minister and OSI may decide." The Irish Institute of Surveyors proposes that this be amended to provide that the advisory committee, proposed to be established by section 4, shall advise the Minister on the need for and the specifications necessary for surveying and mapping services in the public interest and that these should be put to public tender. I am not sure if the institute has made known its concerns on this to the Minister of State or his officials. I hope he will accept the proposals I have made.

I thank Deputy O'Flynn for sharing his time with me and congratulate the Minister of State for introducing the Bill. While it may be uninteresting, it is very important for rural Ireland. It is significant that the Ordnance Survey is to be established as a State body outside the Civil Service. At present it comprises a Civil Service office under the Department of Finance and it is significant that it has a number of regional offices, one of which is in Tuam in my constituency. There was a great struggle to have that office established and we faced strong competition from other bigger towns and cities. The office employs a small number of people and is a good example of what a small measure of decentralisation can achieve. More is required.

Whenever a commercial or semi-State body is established, be it for example An Bord Pleanála, An Post or Eircom, the accusation is made that it leads to an erosion in the powers of Deputies, for example, through the inability to ask Dáil questions. The legislation establishing the Agricultural Appeals Board is another example. In the case of the Ordnance Survey, the Bill will remove some of the restrictions placed on it arising from its Civil Service status. This will enable it to exploit new opportunities and meet the demands of the marketplace.

I pay tribute to the staff of the Ordnance Survey. They have progressed from drawing maps by hand to using a modern digital process employing the most advanced technology available. That is welcome. I am always amazed that those using this technology are able to find areas, especially those under farming. This ability to secure more accurate information gives farmers more time to pursue their farming activities, which is also to be welcomed.

Representations have been made to me that officials will cease to be civil servants when they are transferred to a new body. I look forward to the Minister of State's response to these concerns. He has said negotiations have led to agreement on standard conditions that will ensure the terms and conditions of employment will be maintained. Presumably this will cover the question of superannuation benefits about which all employees will be concerned.

The Minister of State referred to the relocation of the Ordnance Survey headquarters and pointed out that its current headquarters in the Phoenix Park are unsuitable. Will he expand on this aspect as well as on the future of decentralisation, which is of huge importance to rural areas? There could be no more suitable body than the proposed OSI to have its headquarters located in a rural area.

While it is the Government's policy to increase forestry, difficulties arise for those seeking maps to cover specific areas of land. By using new technologies the area aid maps have been very successful in addressing the issue of payments of area aid to the farming community. Will the Minister of State consider using them to deal with the question of forestry grant applications? This would improve the take-up and mean that those planting trees will be paid quickly. There is a delay in the payment of those grants due to mistakes on maps or Ordnance Survey system maps not being able to show the total amount of land planted.

Another issue I would raise is one that Deputy McGrath has already mentioned. He referred to the question of mistakes we have made in the past and spoke, in particular, about the Athlone bypass. We did not provide for other devel opments that would be taking place, such as the broadband network. In Galway there is huge development with new roads through the NRA and local authorities, the Bord Gáis pipeline from the west and ESB pylons. While welcome, they can, in some instances, cause difficulty for landowners and those living in the area. I hope we can get as many of these utilities underground as is possible. It is not always possible, however, and I have met the ESB with my colleagues in east Galway about putting its lines underground. If they cannot be put underground, pylons and lines should be kept as far away from people's houses as possible.

Group water schemes are another form of rural development where maps are also needed. There has been major development by local authorities and, particularly in County Galway, by voluntary groups. They have taken a great step forward by linking with the regional schemes by using maps. However, there are parts of County Galway where regional pipes and group water schemes are almost on the same road. We have to define where all these water schemes are to go. Using the maps about which we are talking will be very important in doing this. I imagine that when the first group water schemes were begun – some of the earliest were in County Galway – maps were very limited. Thankfully, progress is being made and we are linking into the regional schemes as required by EU directive. The new maps we have are of particular help to those pioneers of the schemes who are still putting committees and water schemes together.

Regarding place names, in many towns people are very disappointed that names sometimes only appear in the English language. If they are in Irish, they may appear in very small print at the bottom of signs. There is a strong campaign to have equal status for the Irish and English versions of street and place names. I hope we will get away from some of the very fanciful names of estates used in the past. I welcome the fact that many new housing estates use Irish names. I notice that many local authorities are using the shortened version of the Irish place name. That is regrettable. For example, the town of Gort in south Galway was always known as Gort Inse Guaire. Now on some of the signs on the way in to that town I see the Irish rendered as Gort. It gets the same name in Irish and English, which does not reflect the history of the town. My own village of Castleblakeney was always known as Gallach Uí Cheallaigh because it was the home of the O'Kellys, the family who gave us the Kellys of the welcome, the fáilte Uí Cheallaigh. It has now been reduced to Gallach. That should not happen and I hope the Minister of State will take up the issue with the Coimisiún na Logainmneacha or the local authorities. I do not know to whom we should address the issue, but for a long time we have done a great disservice to those who live in towns where the full Irish of the past has been reduced.

Up to 40 recognised walking routes have been established and there is great opportunity to create more. I hope the Minister of State can investigate the possibility of using the OSI's maps to do this. The walks have been very successful with greater numbers getting involved in walking and many tourists are now coming to avail of the recognised routes.

When we come to the translation of English place names into Irish it would be a very good idea to have discussions with local historians. We will get a better understanding of the history of towns and villages and their streets by doing so rather than by using a shortened version of the name which sounds something like the English one. I wish the Minister of State every success with the Bill and I am hopeful that the OSI will soon be put on a commercial footing.

I think I am sharing my time with Deputy Crawford, but we will not know until he arrives.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Ordnance Survey Bill, 2000. I admit that I am not 100% well read regarding its proposals, but I have been going through the Minister of State's speech. In principle, I take issue with semi-State bodies. The Ordnance Survey of Ireland has been doing an excellent job for a great many years. Some of the speakers across the House outlined the history of the Ordnance Survey and it is appropriate that we congratulate the body for its hard work during the centuries in mapping out the whole country in very difficult times. That it went from a workforce of 2,010 down to about 250 presently shows the progress that has been made in terms of the facilities available for mapping. It has affected many aspects of rural and urban life. It is very important to have proper mapping of areas.

I do not know that I am in favour of having a semi-State body to do this necessary work. The Government should have decided to either privatise completely or leave the OSI within the structure of the Department of Finance. Unfortunately, looking at the history of our semi-State bodies in recent years in the global economy we see how difficult they have found it to survive. A semi-State body is a half-way house. It is not private. It is still an arm of the State and there is a different attitude. It is expected to be competitive, to have the same attitude as a private enterprise, but there is always that dependence on the State. The semi-State body is aware that in difficult times it can look to the State coffers for funding. It is a point of principle that either the OSI should have stayed within the Department or should have been privatised completely. Obviously, that is not a view expressed by a majority around the House, but it is something worth saying.

The Bill will go ahead as it stands and the Government's proposals have to be considered. A number of concerns have been raised with me by people working in the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. I will raise those issues in a little while, but there is a question I would like to ask first. Will the Minister of State mention in his Second Stage reply what the proposals are to deal with headquarters in the Phoenix Park and the regional offices? I know the Minister of State referred in his speech to decentralisation and may consider the decentralisation of OSI, if possible.

There are six regional offices, in Cork, Ennis, Longford, Kilkenny, Tuam and my constituency in Sligo. It is not that they employ a large number of people, but there are still very necessary Civil Service jobs in those areas. Given the change in attitude of OSI and its transition to a semi-State body, the staff are concerned that those regional offices may be closed down.

There is also much concern among the staff regarding the headquarters of OSI in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Deputy McDowell referred to the fact that the conditions there are poor. I, no more than he, have never had the opportunity to visit them.

With regard to decentralisation, I do not know how many of the 250 civil servants are based in the Phoenix Park. I know the numbers of people employed in the regional offices are relatively small. I have no objections, being from a rural constituency, to the notion of decentralisation. I hope the Minister of State is more forthcoming than his senior colleague in the Department of Finance regarding the Government's plans for decentralisation. Great noises were made about it over the past 12 or 18 months. There were 90 applications from different towns throughout the country and there were to be ten locations proposed by the Government. Approaching an election, I do not expect that those tough decisions will be made. Before the Government leaves office and considering the decentralisation of OSI, I recommend highly that it chooses the location of Carrick-on-Shannon in my constituency. It is one of the few county towns in the country that does not have an OSI presence. Otherwise, we will have to wait and I will make that decision myself when Fine Gael is in Government after the next general election.

The issues that have been brought to my attention by a number of staff in the Ordnance Survey office are worth raising, and the Minister of State may have the opportunity to address them in his Second Stage reply. Obviously, we will have the opportunity to table them as amendments on Committee Stage of the Bill. There is great concern regarding the Civil Service status of the employees and I understand that. Will it be possible for them to transfer to other Government Departments after the change of status if the present OSI employees decide they would like to do so when it becomes a semi-State body?

Will the option to work from home still be available after the change? Will the option to take early retirement with maximum benefits still obtain because there are a number of staff who have over 20 years service as civil servants? Will they be starting from scratch under the new body or will they be able to retain the benefits they have? Will it be possible for a time period of five years to be allowed during which an employee of the new entity can opt to transfer to a Civil Service Department and location of his or her choice?

In the early 1990s, when Customs and Excise staff were being disbanded, a special case was made for them. Vehicle registration offices were set up to accommodate a number of those employees. Will the Minister of State propose something like that? I did not hear anything

reference to it in his speech.

Was a feasibility study carried out to assess the viability of OSI to function as a semi-State organisation or is it just one of a number of proposals that have been made to the Government?

A number of Deputies have referred to the use of language. The Minister of State mentioned that part of the brief of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands is now being taken over by this new semi-State body. I know it is not part of the role of OSI, but it would be important to try to stop the inappropriate naming of estates. If one visited a provincial town in many parts of the country, one would think one was in California, not Ireland. Estates are given names such as "Wonderful Heights" or called after sunshine and flowers, rather than the Irish cultural names being adopted. We should try to oppose this trend.

The Minister of State's speech refers to the updating and maintenance of the framework on which national mapping is based and a programme to complete a new mapping infrastructure for rural Ireland in the short term. That is something that needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency because I know from my experience of constituencies in rural Ireland – outside Carrick-on-Shannon, for example, on the periphery of the town – the existing Ordnance Survey maps pertaining thereto are over 100 years old. The detail necessary for development is not in the maps. This must be the case for many areas throughout the country. Therefore, I hope the proposal of the Minister will be one of the priorities of the new semi-State body when it is set up.

The ongoing maintenance and development programme to ensure that urban-rural and tourist and leisure mapping databases are up to date is important. My colleague, Deputy McGrath, referred to this in terms of underground transport. Consider the developments that are taking place in Dublin with regard to Luas and the port tunnels. If this country is to develop in the next 20 years the way it has up to now, we may see other cities, such as Cork, Galway and Limerick, in need of underground services, tunnels and other infrastructural provisions.

My final point relates to the developing market and sales function to ensure that products and services are suitably developed to meet the ongoing and anticipated needs of public and private customers. One would require a mon opoly for this. I hope that the price structures of the new semi-State body will be competitive.

I thank Deputy Reynolds for the opportunity to speak on this very important Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to set up OSI as a State body outside the Civil Service. Like Deputy Reynolds I am anxious in this regard. Given that it is very difficult to have questions answered by the National Roads Authority or any of the other semi-State bodies, one has to worry about the fact that the Bill does not clearly indicate that we will be able to ask questions in this House. The rainbow Government initiated this process by proposing the interim board in 1997. It is hard to believe it has taken so long to get this far. After four and a half years, there is still serious concern about the lack of consultation on the future of staff. The fears of staff are clear. There is the loss of Civil Service status and of the option to transfer to another branch of the service. A commitment is sought in accordance with Government policy on decentralisation that no recentralisation should be attempted without prior negotiations with the staff of the office affected. Another important issue is that, in the event of the closure of a regional office, such as Longford which is nearest to my constituency, provision should be made to allow staff to transfer or avail of early retirement.

Section 15 states that the terms and conditions of employment will be no less favourable than those enjoyed by an employee within the Civil Service. An employee within the service can transfer from the Ordnance Survey to another Department, as has occurred recently in several cases. Will an employee of the new entity, who will not be a civil servant, be allowed to transfer to the Civil Service? This is a crucial issue as far as unions are concerned. If a provision for such a transfer is not written into the Bill, the terms of employment are surely altered detrimentally. This provision must be enshrined in the Bill so that it does not contradict itself. I urge for proper discussions and negotiations with staff representatives.

Before entering office, the Government parties were clear in their commitment. I remember the Army in Castleblayney was told there would be full consultation before anything would happen. We all know what happened in that case. Some people who do not live far from there are fearful that if the provision I have sought is not written into the Bill, the same type of action could be taken again.

Others have referred to their anxiety about offices throughout the country being closed and to the office in the Phoenix Park. I have visited that office on many occasions and have found the staff to be extremely helpful and understood what I needed. There are also a number of regional offices. In case my county of Monaghan is forgotten, I point out that we do not have an Ordnance Survey office, although we did once. We would be glad to see the office in the Phoenix Park decentralised to Monaghan and I am sure I have the full support of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for that. In current circumstances, Government, Civil Service or semi-State jobs are vital and very important to a region.

There is a need for the centralisation of mapping of underground cables and such like. I cannot help mentioning this in the context of the Border area which depends on cables coming from Dublin. A digger working in County Louth has on a number of occasions cut off all telephone services to north Monaghan. It is vital the Ordnance Survey or some such group clearly marks out as quickly as possible after installation underground cabling, ducting, gas pipes and such like and that there is easy access to this information, on the Internet or wherever, to those involved in excavation to avoid major mistakes being made.

We generally equate maps for land and property with the Ordnance Survey but those maps are used not only for legal purposes but also in many other areas of farming, such as area aid, the rural environment protection scheme and so on. Satellites are used to check areas, yet most of the maps available to farmers and others show fields as they were 100 years ago. In areas such as mine, there have been major changes in field structures with the removal of hedgerows and such like. It is important that maps are updated as quickly as possible. The younger generation often do not understand what many of the lines on these maps represent. It is important, given all the funds from Brussels clearly marked towards area structures, that the best possible information is made available and that it is easily accessible.

Others have mentioned the construction of new roads and changes to the landscape in the areas through which they are routed. I encountered a very difficult situation recently in discussions and negotiations for the placing of a new road in north Monaghan. A house which had been built and lived in for some time was not shown on any maps. I realise this was not the fault of the Ordnance Survey but it highlights the need for the quick updating of maps, especially where people's livelihoods are put at risk.

It is vital that the new structures being put in place work quickly and at a reasonable cost. Deputy Gerry Reynolds made the point that the danger of the Ordnance Survey being a monopoly cannot be overlooked. We must ensure maps and other necessary items provided by the Ordnance Survey are available at a realistic and reasonable cost.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words. The Bill is necessary and is a step forward, but the Minister should ensure the staff involved are given an opportunity to sort out their problems to obtain a reasonable settlement. Given current circumstances, Civil Service jobs are more important than ever and I would like to see some of them brought to Monaghan.

I propose to share my time with Deputy Roche.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

There is no question in the legislation of a monopoly being conferred on Ordnance Survey Ireland. There has never been a monopoly in Ireland in the preparation of maps. Anyone is free to prepare a map but the State required maps to be prepared for various purposes. The origins of the Ordnance Survey were in the need for the military to have mapping arrangements. For many years there was a symbiotic link between the Ordnance Survey headquarters in the Phoenix Park and the Defence Forces.

Notwithstanding issues I wish to raise on Committee Stage, I welcome as a matter of principle the introduction of this legislation and the interest the Minister has taken in the matter. It is clear the Ordnance Survey staff deserve great praise for the development of their service in the previous two decades. For many decades this service of the State was a most neglected part of State administration and the basic mapping infrastructure inherited from the days of the British was preserved but with little done to improve, enhance or develop it. In the past 20 years we have seen a tremendous development in moving the Ordnance Survey from a producer of paper maps to a provider of geographic data available on databases. As the Minister pointed out in his introduction to this measure, map-making has been transformed from a hand-drawn activity to a digital process employing the most advanced information technology. We have witnessed in the Ordnance Survey office the development of that transition within a rigid Civil Service framework. We have also seen a change in attitude where a commercial approach has been taken to the sale of the various services and products which the Ordnance Survey provides. It is desirable to put the activity of this body on a sound statutory foundation by establishing Ordnance Survey Ireland.

I welcome the fact that the Government recognises that it is not a staging post or transitional point on the way to privatisation but that mapping must remain a core activity of the State. That is recognised by the provisions in the legislation which ensure that there must be a service agreement and a continued public subsidy, by way of a substantial subvention from the Exchequer, to enable the Ordnance Survey to carry out its work. It is envisaged that there will be a continuing deficit at the Ordnance Survey. There is provision in the legislation for the service agreement and under the service agreement the public interest services which the Ordnance Survey provides will be clearly identified and paid for from the Exchequer. I welcome that.

I notice also that the Minister has been careful to say that this is not a Bill to provide for the decentralisation of the Ordnance Survey. There is no intrinsic link between this legislation and a possible move of the Ordnance Survey. The relo cation of the headquarters in the Phoenix Park will be decided in the context of the Government's decentralisation programme. A number of Deputies from the other side of the House appealed for the decentralisation of the Ordnance Survey headquarters to their constituency. It is located close to my constituency and the bulk of the staff reside in that constituency. Deputies from outside the greater Dublin area call for the decentralisation of Departments but they often forget that there are few Departments or agencies located in the suburbs or around the periphery of Dublin.

I appeal to the Government to recognise that Dublin extends substantially into a surrounding hinterland and while the bulk of the State offices are located in the core central area of the Dublin metropolitan region there are few State agencies located around the periphery of that region. This agency is located on the periphery of the built up metropolitan Dublin region. The Dublin and eastern regions are entitled to expect some measure of establishment of State offices. Many employees wish to work in these offices and to live in the Dublin area. One of the difficulties of decentralisation has been to persuade staff to live outside the Dublin area. There is considerable merit in establishing State offices in suburban Dublin because it will alleviate traffic problems to some extent. I would like this plea on the general question of decentralisation to be taken into account.

I commend the general principles of this measure and the Ordnance Survey on the progress and development made in recent decades and the commitment, interest, enthusiasm and ability of the staff. The question of staff consultation must be looked at with care. The union representing the staff has expressed unhappiness with the nature of the consultation which has taken place to date. The Minister has engaged in detailed discussions with the unions in recent months. It is important that we recognise the concerns staff have about transfer from a Civil Service context to a separate statutory body. The Minister has indicated that it is expected that the usual transitional arrangements whereby transferred staff remain eligible to participate in Civil Service competitions for a period after the establishment day will be agreed. I hope progress has been made on those discussions and that the Minister will be generous and will meet those requirements and other elements put forward by the staff representatives. The staff has been a motivated group and that motivation should be sustained and discussions brought to a successful conclusion before the enactment of the legislation.

A matter of more general principle is the question of staff representation on the board of the Ordnance Survey. I appreciate that the number of staff is small but I appeal to the Minister to consider whether some form of statutory recognition of the principle can be formulated in this measure. It is important for the Ordnance Survey that this legislation is enacted. The Ordnance Survey has a clear core function which is recognised in the legislation as being worthy of Exchequer subvention and support. That is welcome. The new legislation will allow the Ordnance Survey to proceed on a commercial basis in relation to many of its operations and is therefore desirable. I thank the House and the Minister.

I thank Deputy Lenihan for sharing his time. I am probably the only Member who has a principled problem with what is happening here today. The creation of another non-commercial State-sponsored body is hardly new. It is something we have been doing since the 1920s. In 1969, exactly 32 years ago, the Devlin report commented – the PSORG since commented – that on each occasion that we create a new non-commercial State-sponsored body when similar or analogous functions are retained within the Civil Service we are admitting that the legislative basis on which the Civil Service is established is too inflexible to meet the needs of a modern society. Specifically, the Devlin report was talking about the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. It suggested that this was central to the organisation and operation of the Civil Service and that it was also the basis of much of the inflexibilities which had to be addressed on an ad hoc basis since 1926 when the first non-commercial State-sponsored bodies were created.

We are doing the same here today without addressing the issue of the general principle. The primary argument for the creation of a stand-alone non-commercial State-sponsored body called OSI seems to be to free the existing OSI from existing constraints. I understand why that is happening. I would like to know the genesis of the suggestion and to hear how it evolved and what basic arguments have been put forward. I listened with interest to the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Cullen. His speech was clear and concise but the reality is that 32 years after the publication of the Devlin report we are still doing this sort of thing on an ad hoc basis.

It is unwise to have certain functions within the Civil Service and others outside in the grey area we call the non-commercial State enterprise area. We have not addressed that issue and we will probably not address it tonight either. It is time we established some general principles as to how we should shape our administration. The Devlin report provided us with a model. Successive Governments over the past 30 years have shirked their responsibilities. We have had a lot of "commitment" to reforming, re-establishing and refocusing our Civil Service. We have had some extraordinarily good initiatives, for example the SMI initiative, but we have also had failures. The legislation a few years ago which created the title "Secretaries General" in Departments was supposed to address the wider issue of the structure and focus of the Civil Service in the years ahead, yet it failed to do that. Again we come back to the ad hoc solution to the problems. The difficulties of freeing OSI are being resolved, as in so many cases previously, by the creation of a non-commercial State-sponsored body.

I am surprised Members have not indicated any sense of unease in their contributions today. The reality is that on each occasion we create another one of these quasi autonomous agencies, we are hiving off areas of public administration which were previously under the direct control of this House through the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and transferring them to some nether world where a board is supposed to have oversight.

There is one good aspect of the Bill where the audit system addresses issues of efficiency. I am unhappy that we continue to operate on this basis. As we enter the 21st century, it is time to examine fundamentally the logic of retaining a large section of public administration under the nonsensical Victorian doctrine of ministerial responsibility, when it has been recognised on over 100 occasions since 1927 that this doctrine is unworkable. I commend the Bill if only because it provides the opportunity to raise that issue.

Like other Members, I was contacted by Ordnance Survey staff, which surprised me. The transmogrification from Civil Service to non-commercial State-sponsored body is a well trodden route. I have every confidence in this process, knowing as I do that the Minister of State, Deputy Cullen, is aware of the staff's concerns. I was concerned, however, at the volume of representation made. Deputy Brian Lenihan referred to the usual transitional arrangements, but I suppose it is because of what happened to organisations like Telecom Éireann, which went the whole way from Civil Service to private enterprise, that public servants are concerned. I am confident the Minister will look at this and give whatever guarantees are necessary.

Deputies also spoke of the OSI headquarters. Long before I became mad and entered politics, I worked in the public service and at that time, 25 years ago, the inadequacies of the OSI headquarters' buildings and the necessity of something new and appropriate to its task were debated. I was amused to hear Members arguing, on the one hand, for its staying in Dublin and others, in the tradition of parochial politics – all politics is local, as Tip O'Neill said – for moving it to their constituencies. Not to be remiss in that and to be as parochial as others, I put down a marker for Wicklow. If the Minister is considering moving the headquarters to the periphery, there is no better place than there. It has been overlooked in all decentralisation matters. It is not too far away and many of the staff live there, some in the sylvan territories represented by Deputy Brian Lenihan, others in the uplands. The county would be an excellent compromise. I smiled when Deputy McGrath argued for not moving the headquarters and Deputy Crawford argued the opposite. I sympathise with Deputy Crawford but hope decentralisation will be to Wicklow.

I remember 25 years ago having conversations with Ordnance Survey staff who were concerned about the treatment of artefacts. The major concern was over lithostones with the original hand drawn maps, which were truly works of art. Tragically, many were destroyed, broken up or even used as paving stones, which was vandalism. No one in OSI today would be guilty of that sin. There are significant artefacts which should be preserved. I have spoken to people in the OSI who are conscious of the artistry and the importance of the early reproductive instruments. There should be guarantees about these. The Ordnance Survey has a colourful history that ought to be preserved. As was said, it flows from military occupation and there was a symbiotic relationship between the military and the early Ordnance Survey.

I support what Deputy McGrath said about the abnormality and bizarreness of some current place names. This is not a matter for this Bill nor for the Minister of State, Deputy Cullen, but for planning legislation, and was mentioned by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey. There are some bizarre aberrations of place names. We have marvellous names that relate to the history of the country and its people. Deputy McGrath referred to an estate in Robinstown called Sherwood Park. There are several similar ones in County Wicklow. An effort must be made to force local authorities to require logic in naming new estates. We have a wealth of place names, some beautiful, others bizarre but all worth preserving. Cyber Downs, PC Valley, Airfield Heights and similarly outlandish names are nonsense and cretinous in the extreme. One wonders if the Christian

Brothers ever got their hands on some of these developers. If they did, they did a bad job. If they are not prepared to do it willingly, then it must be inculcated into that merry band of men called developers that there is a wealth of place names here. Work has been done and there is much official exhortation, but I want to see planning legislation used to force common sense on them.

(Dublin West): My first instinct and reaction is to be extremely suspicious of this Bill and the intention behind it. The explanatory memorandum summarises it as providing for the transformation of the Ordnance Survey into a State body, the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, outside the Civil Service with considerable commercial freedom to enter into contracts and joint ventures and to sell its products and collect debts and royalties. On the face of it, some might think that this is an attractive option designed to enhance the Ordnance Survey into a vibrant State-owned organisation that will flourish and provide a necessary service.

However we must take into account the Government's record regarding its attitude towards public services and State and semi-State bodies. The driving philosophy, during four years in power, behind its approach to State and semi- State sectors is the philosophy of privatisation. Recently, I attended a seminar on Aer Lingus, organised by SIPTU, at which a senior officer of the Department of Public Enterprise, under the tutelage of the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, spoke. He left more than me aghast at the simple statement that Aer Lingus had no future in public ownership as privatisation was the only way to go. It was not that the Commission might create a problem when it came to seeking funds from the EU, but that it was not the right thing to do since it should be privatised. That person spoke honestly and, if this is the thinking at the heart of the Department of Public Enterprise, shared by the Minister, what hope is there to develop a vibrant public service or semi-State sector?

The question, naturally, comes to mind as to whether this Bill is in preparation for the privatisation of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland at a later stage. That is my very great suspicion. We will probably see some combination of parties, whether in the present Government or some other combination further down the road, pushing the situation further in that direction if this Bill is passed. Everything which this Government has done in the past two years in particular provides justification for that suspicion.

The Ordnance Survey is a unique operation, more than 170 years in existence. I agree it was linked to military purposes but it developed from that to provide a very essential service for the public bodies of this State, the local authorities, the Land Commission and various other bodies, over many years. Indeed, people involved in ordinary transactions such as house purchase will have availed of maps prepared by the Ordnance Survey. If it were positively developed, it could become a very vibrant body and continue to perform a necessary public service. Even the Government recognises that, as indicated in the Minister's speech. It has, in many ways, modernised itself to provide an up-to-date service in mapping and other areas for which it is responsible. However, if this Bill is passed, what will be the position for Ordnance Survey Ireland?

I have had the painful experience on more than one occasion in the past few years of fighting a rather lone battle for the public services and their development as such, against the philosophy of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Government, sometimes aided and abetted by the main Opposition parties. The Government's action in relation to the Irish National Petroleum Corporation, for example, would ring many warning bells about what may happen to Ordnance Survey Ireland later. We had a unique service, a commercially viable oil terminal and refinery which, nevertheless, the Government sold off to a multinational company with, as it happened, an appalling health and safety record and a dreadful environmental record. We have also had examples of commercially viable banks being sold off in a similar manner.

The Government now proposes to put much of the Ordnance Survey into the realm of the purely commercial. It recognises, however, that there is part of its work that may not be capable of becoming commercial and may have to be retained as a public interest. It then proceeds to provide for a division between the public interest section and the commercial section of the Ordnance Survey. The Minister said that the general function of OSI will continue to provide the national mapping service in the State and will operate in the public interest by creating and maintaining the definitive maps and geographical information of the State. He then went on to detail the service agreement in regard to what will be carried out in the public interest, containing a description of each such activity etc. and what will be done as a commercial entity. I see a real danger for the future in the proposed structure. If it is put into effect, the result will be a division of the services now provided by the Ordnance Survey, whereby the commercially profitable can be flogged off to the highest bidder and what even this Government sees as essential for the State in regard to the mapping service being maintained as a public service underwritten largely by the taxpayer.

The Minister is providing that the commercial sector will be pushed into the marketplace to raise its funds. At a time of very low interest rates, that may not seem very onerous but if, against a background of crisis, we revert to a 1980s situation, when State and semi-State companies were up to their necks in interest payments and severely damaged by that millstone tied around their necks by the banks, by virtue of being forced into the marketplace, it could be extremely difficult for Ordnance Survey Ireland to remain viable in those conditions. We have had semi-State sectors which were massively hampered by debt. The most notorious example, to which I referred in this House on a number of occasions, was the fertiliser company from which the banks made an absolute killing. That situation should not be allowed to develop in relation to the Ordnance Survey.

There is a particular situation with regard to the staff of the Ordnance Survey service. It is scandalous that, in this State, many semi-State bodies run their operations as mini-dictatorships, in which the industrial relations atmosphere is actually worse than in some capitalist concerns. Workers are treated badly by a sometimes brutal and uncaring management and are often very greatly alienated. There have been many examples of this in the past 12 to 18 months alone. That is outrageous, particularly for a public sector company, which should be a model for how workers are treated, the atmosphere which should prevail in the workplace and, in consequence, the ability of workers to contribute better to the company concerned, by virtue of that good relationship.

It is disturbing to hear complaints about this situation from constituents working in the Ordnance Survey office. One such letter states that, of late, industrial relations in OSI have deterio rated, staff are demoralised and, to improve this difficult climate, it is imperative that a signal is given by a statutory provision of worker directors. If this does not happen, it is likely that a continuing downward spiral in industrial relations will immediately affect the prospect of the new body being successful. This would present the new body with an unwarranted legacy which will directly affect the viability of OSI.

The Minister, if he gets his way with the passing of this Bill, which is likely on the face of it, should move in a different direction and bring the workers in the Ordnance Survey to the very heart of the management of the company instead of providing for a board which might be merely four members, that is, the minimum number provided for. If there was a real commitment on behalf of this or any other Government in regard to a real, imaginative and vibrant development of the public services, bringing workers into the heart of the management of a company at all levels and in all ways would obviously be a crucial factor in how any public company could be developed. In that way, one would utilise the best talents and the best abilities to make the public sector very successful in providing a service second to none to the population it serves and, in many cases, help it to turn in a surplus which could go into redevelopment or into other areas of the public sector. If that had been done in many State companies, such as Aer Lingus or, indeed, Iarnród Éireann, we would have a different scenario from the one we face at present. The Minister, therefore, when replying to the debate should address the concerns of the staff and make provision in the Bill along the lines I suggest.

Another concern the workers have raised is decentralisation. The Ordnance Survey has been located in the Phoenix Park for 176 years. I fully understand the concerns of workers in the Ordnance Survey service when we see the activities of the Government in recent years in regard to decentralisation. Instead of acting like a Government which has under its leadership the resources and services of the State and which is mandated to develop those equitably and justly in the interests of all the people of the State, in the matter of decentralisation of State services, the Government is degenerating into a pack of rugby players where certain Ministers seize the ball under their control and make off at top speed to the furthest corner of their constituency.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform transferred to Cahirciveen a section of the public legal service. The Minister for the Marine and Natural Resource is attempting to transfer to Galway sections of his Department without proper consultation or objective analysis as to where, if these are to be decentralised, the best place in the State is to which they should be decentralised and how the best service could be given rather than the criteria being that the best location, according to the Government, is from where the Minister in charge is elected and located. That is scandalous. It is on a par with feudal operations rather than the needs of a modern economy and particularly the welfare of public services and the workforce on whom the State and the country depends to provide a service. I fully agree with the staff in their concerns and insist that they are not only consulted, but that the decision is in their hands in this case of

Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Another issue raised is the pension rights in the changed circumstances of the Ordnance Survey. A number of workers in the Ordnance Survey came from previous services, for example, the Army, and were able to bring their service with them for pensionable purposes. The Minister must reassure the staff that in any changes which may occur as a result of this legislation, they will maintain their full entitlement in regard to their pension rights. We have seen other pensioners rather shamefully treated by previous Governments and decisions they have made. That is a very important point.

I would like to see the Ordnance Survey developed as a vibrant public service. It is wrong that the Minister said that it cannot really be done while maintaining its position as part of the Civil Service. If the will was there and the philosophy was different, it would be possible.

Tá amhras mór orm faoi intinn an Rialtais maidir leis an mBille um Shuirbhéireacht Ordanáis. An t-amhras atá orm gurb é príobháideadh an chomhlachta úd atá in aigne an Rialtais tamall síos an bóthar, faoi mar a deineadh leis an Irish Petroleum Corporation, comhlacht a bhí riachtanach agus seirbhís a bhí an-thábhachtach don Stát. Mar sin féin thug an Stát an comhlacht sin do chomhlacht príobháideach idirnáisiúnta, rud a bhí scannalach.

Teastaíonn uaim go bhfanfadh an tSeirbhís Ordanáis mar sheirbhís phoiblí, go ndéanfaí forbairt uirthi mar sheirbhís phoiblí agus go mbeadh cur isteach daonlathach ag an bhfoireann sa tslí ina ndéantar í a fhorbairt agus a rith.

I am puzzled as to what the Minister is trying to do in this Bill. There is no doubt that he has caused a lot of annoyance and turmoil in the Ordnance Survey office. I recognise and place on record the great work of the Ordnance Survey and the important service that has been rendered to this State. No aspect of activity in this country will lead to litigation as quickly as the ownership of a piece of property and the line drawn between neighbours, whether it is a building site, a housing site or the transfer of land. The final arbiter in that very important activity is the Ordnance Survey official and the boundary lines drawn by these people. They have shown commitment and dedication. Work has been ongoing and developments have been made and experience gained. One cannot take somebody from university, bring them to the Ordnance Survey with whatever qualifications they may have and send them to the countryside to do ordnance survey as they would get lost. These people have vast experience.

I have a letter from a person who has worked with the Ordnance Survey for 23 years and his rights as a civil servant will be taken away from him overnight if the Minister has his way in this Bill. These people are annoyed. This is one individual but he speaks on behalf of his colleagues. He does not wish to remain anonymous but I will not name him here because I have great regard for him and his colleagues. I have had dealings with these people over the years, as has the Minister and others in this House. If there is any problem in the Ordnance Survey, it is that it has always been understaffed, particularly in recent times. Over the years, things moved slowly.

Debate adjourned.