Update: my slides from a presentation at the European Commission in May 2008 are now online
The research report entitled Models of Public Sector Information Provision via Trading Funds was published today to coincide with its mention in the budget (para 3.49). This report was commissioned by HMT and BERR and jointly written by myself, Professor Newbery and Professor Bently (all at Cambridge University).
The formal announcement and details of the context in which the report was commissioned can be found here on BERRâ€™s website. To quote at some length from the section dealing with this report:
As part of the response [to the OFTâ€™s report on the Commercial Use of Public Information], the Government commissioned Cambridge University to do some analysis specifically around the pricing of public sector information held by trading funds[i].
This analysis has been released today as a Study Report (11 March 2008 - see Related Documents), and it sets out estimates of the costs and benefits of marginal-cost pricing, based on the assumptions used by the Cambridge team and the data they were able to collect.
Going forward, the Government will look closely at the public sector information held by trading funds to distinguish more clearly what is required by Government for public tasks, ensuring this information is made available as widely as possible for use in actual and potential downstream markets.
In the lead up to the next spending review, it will also ensure that it is priced appropriately. The underlying principle will be that information collected for public purposes will be made available at a price that balances the need for access while ensuring customers pay a fair contribution to the cost of collecting this information in the long-term.
[i] The study was commissioned jointly by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and HM Treasury in July 2007. The terms of reference for the study are available upon request by contacting the BERR Enquiry Unit
Meanwhile the budget had this to say (chapter 3 and chapter 5)
3.49 [Commercial Use of Public Sector Information] The Office of Fair Tradingâ€™s (OFT) market study into the commercial use of public information15 highlighted important issues around access to public sector information for commercial or other re-use. The Government commissioned Cambridge University to analyse the pricing of this information. This analysis is published alongside Budget 2008. The Government will look closely at public sector information held by trading funds to distinguish more clearly what is required by Government for public tasks and ensure that this information is made available as widely as possible for use in downstream markets. In the lead up to the next Spending Review the Government will ensure that information collected for public purposes is priced so that the need for access is balanced with ensuring that customers pay a fair contribution to the cost of collecting this information in the long term. These issues will be considered in conjunction with the assessment of trading funds (see Chapter 5).
5.14 [Asset management and sales] The Government is committed to managing the stock of public assets to deliver optimal results for society and the economy. Following the 2007 CSR, departments are publishing asset management strategies setting out how they will deliver best value from their assets. To support the introduction of asset management strategies the Treasury and Shareholder Executive will undertake an assessment of the governance, business plans and future development strategies of each of the trading funds and a selection of public corporations (excluding those already subject to central government review).