HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc586-7
10. Ms Christine Russell (City of Chester)

What plans he has to encourage museums and galleries to extend their educational work in the community. [66769]

The Minister for Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth)

The Government attach high priority to the education work of museums and galleries, as is shown in new allocations of funding both from my Department and from the Department for Education and Employment. I congratulate the Grosvenor museum in my hon. Friend's constituency on the excellent education work it carries out, using its collections, on Roman archaeology and local history.

Ms Russell

Will my hon. Friend join me in further congratulating the Grosvenor museum on recently being awarded a substantial grant from the heritage lottery fund to make the building and its facilities accessible to people with disabilities? The museum already runs a good programme of educational work in the community; will my hon. Friend confirm that it will be possible to use the challenge fund, which he mentioned earlier, for work on an oral history programme, which the museum wants to carry out? Such a programme will not only engage older people, but, as important, give a sense of community to younger people.

Mr. Howarth

I am happy to reiterate, as my hon. Friend invites me to, my congratulations to the Grosvenor museum. The project that she mentioned should be eligible for funding under the programme. I emphasise her point about the importance of museums attending to their role in dealing with social exclusion. My hon. Friend mentioned disabled people, but there are many opportunities to help people throughout their lives. Museums will be eligible to apply for funding under the new initiative on community access to lifelong learning, which will be funded by the new opportunities fund.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)

It is good to hear so much encouragement for Labour Members and their projects, but what has the Minister to say to my constituents about places such as Haslemere museum? That is an excellent museum with splendid collections, but it has been informed that such has been the reduction in lottery money going to the heritage lottery fund that it is not now possible to support projects that might otherwise have received help. The Minister may have provided a modest increase from his Department's funds, but that is dwarfed by the raiding of lottery funds for museum projects to give money back to the Chancellor for his pet projects.

Mr. Howarth

The heritage lottery fund will have more than the £1.8 billion promised by the right hon. Lady when she was Secretary of State and will receive no less than she and the previous Administration intended. I hope that she will return to her constituency and offer a little comfort and cheer to those in Haslemere.

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