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18/06/07
Tory Plans to Scrap Free Museum Entry Come Under Fire
- Apparent U-Turn on policy after scheme is savaged

The National History Museum. Copyright: LondonNetPLANS by the Conservative Party to ditch the successful free museum entry scheme enjoyed by natives and tourists alike since 2001, look to have stalled.

"We believe museums and galleries should have the right to charge if they wish to," said Shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire on Sunday. "They could use the money to make their facilities even better."

But later, after being mauled by critics, Swire was forced by his party hierarchy to issue a climbdown. "It is not our policy to bring back admission fees to museums and galleries," he said.

But that formulation might allow for doubt as it could be claimed that though it is not party policy to force museums to charge an entry fee, a Tory government wouldn't stand in the way of museums which wanted to.

Current Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was one of the first to lay into the museum charging plan: "This would be a seriously regrettable step if the Tories were to go down this road. It would be unpopular and would penalise people from all walks of life," she said.

Liberal Democrat Don Foster drew a wider conclusion about the furore. "Yet again the Tories have shown their true Thatcherite colours," he said.

Figures from the museums show that attendance has doubled since the current Labour government re-introduced free-entry, after years of charging under the previous Tory government.



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