Letter: Unfair to Wales

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Sir: On 1 April, Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, announced that the Government would give financial help to national museums and galleries to enable them to admit the public free. Children were to be admitted free in the first year, senior citizens in the second and more people still in the third.

He has already implemented these proposals with financial assistance, so that establishments in England have started the first year and admit children free. The Scottish Office has provided enough resources to enable free admission in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Office has free admission anyway, except to special exhibitions.

But this is not happening in Wales.

The national museums and galleries of Wales have been told by the Welsh Office that free entry will have to be met by economies elsewhere. Although the total grant for 1999/2000 was increased, the extra funds had been largely ring-fenced for specific purposes which did not include free admission. Economies such as reduction in staff by natural wastage enabled the museums to allow free admission to children, but in school parties only.

The inhabitants of Wales are not being treated in the same way as those of England because the Welsh Office has made a different choice in the use of available resources. It is not known whether this is an administrative or a political decision. Perhaps free admission to museums and galleries is not a vote-catcher.

What will happen now with the National Assembly cannot be forecast but, whatever the outcome, the whole process in Wales will be at least 12 months behind the rest of the country. Children in Wales must not be disadvantaged.

HUGH JONES

Chair

And the 12 other executive committee members

Friends of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales

Cardiff

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