HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc584-5
8. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

What plans he has for the allocation of additional funding which will be available to museums and galleries in (a) the north-west region and (b) Chorley over the next three years. [66766]

The Minister for Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth)

The six designated museums in the north-west can apply to the new £15 million designated museums challenge fund. As well as free entry for children and pensioners at the national museums and galleries on Merseyside, funds are available to hold their annual eight-pass season ticket at £3. The museum of science and industry in Manchester has also been allocated funds to enable free access for children from April this year.

Mr. Hoyle

I thank the Minister for that reply. However, is he aware that there are many other museums and galleries throughout the north-west, particularly Astley Hall in my constituency, which is a very good gallery and museum? What help and support can it expect from the Minister?

Mr. Howarth

Astley Hall in my hon. Friend's constituency, as a museum registered with the Museums and Galleries Commission, may apply to the £7 million heritage lottery fund's access fund and also to the new challenge fund established by my Department of £500,000 in each of the next two years for information technology and educational projects in museums.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Why will the Minister not apologise to the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) for breaking his pre-election pledge? Did not Labour say during the general election campaign that all people—not just children and pensioners—would have free access to all galleries and museums by 2001? Why is that another broken promise?

Mr. Howarth

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. We are delivering on our pledge to provide funds for free entry to national museums and galleries. That funding will be available to enable free entry for children from 1 April this year and for pensioners the year after. In the year following that, we have allocated sufficient funding to enable free entry for all to national museums and galleries if the trustees wish to take up that opportunity.

Ms Beverley Hughes (Stretford and Urmston)

May I take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent the north of England for their support for the imperial war museum for the north, which was given the go-ahead last week? The project will break new ground in accessibility, giving visitors and students access to previously unseen photographs and film footage and enabling them to see, for example, their great-grandfathers' great war record. However, does my hon. Friend the Minister share my concern that, so far, the heritage lottery fund has not contributed to that project; and is he confident that it gives sufficient priority to such prestigious projects in the regions?

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend herself deserves an accolade in respect of that exciting project, which she has supported imaginatively and energetically. The design and the project are both wonderful and I know that the heritage lottery fund is considering an application for further support for the project.

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