§ The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)
My Department directly sponsors 12 national and five non-national museums and galleries. Its support to the wider museums sector is channelled via the Museums and Galleries Commission.
§ Ms Perham
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. My local council in the London borough of 508 Redbridge will open its first ever museum in spring 2000, after many years of campaigning by local people. Will he join me in congratulating the councillors and officers of the London borough of Redbridge and the local groups and individuals who have worked hard for this much-wanted facility? What support does his Department give to local museums at local level?
§ Mr. Smith
I can certainly join my hon. Friend in heartily congratulating the borough of Redbridge on its initiative in establishing a new museum in Ilford central library. I am pleased that it has received a grant of £182,000 from the heritage lottery fund. That has been matched by a contribution of £263,000 from the borough itself, which speaks volumes for its commitment.
§ Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)
What confidence can we have in anything that the Secretary of State says about museums? In the first three months of this Parliament, did the Government not give a pledge that there would be universal free admission to the nation's galleries and museums by 2001? Has that pledge been dropped?
§ Mr. Smith
No such pledge was given. Indeed, I shall quote to the hon. Gentleman from our document "A New Cultural Framework", which we published in summer 1998. It set out our programme for the succeeding three years, and said:
In order to widen access to our great national collections, extra funds have been allocated to the national museums and galleries which charge for admission to allow free entry for children from next year,"—that is done—
"and for children and pensioners in the following year."
That is shortly to happen. The document continues:
These are the first stages in our programme of broadening free access to the great national collections; funds have also been set aside to take this programme further in 2001.That will be done.