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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 12:45 GMT
'Free entry' to museums
National History Museum
The Natural History Museum could scrap entrance fees
Entrance fees to all national galleries and museums in England are to be scrapped, the BBC has learned.

A deal has been struck between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Treasury over the payment of VAT by museums and galleries.

The move is expected to be announced later this month, although the DCMS has refused to confirm the deal.

According to the BBC's political editor Andrew Marr, government officials have been discussing the cost implications of the scheme for some time.

Click here to see the entrance fees for Britain's museums and galleries

"This has been a lengthy and difficult lobbying campaign," he said.

Labour manifesto

He said the institutions affected included the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Free entry to museums was proposed by Labour while in opposition but the party stopped short of including the promise in its 1997 manifesto because of fears about the cost.

The DCMS has already agreed to subsidise national museums in England, in a deal which would allow them to drop most entry fees to 1 from September this year.

The Quids In Scheme was proposed when museums pointed out they would lose valuable VAT rebates if they were to drop all entry fees.

'Dicussions'

The new deal between the DCMS and Treasury is believed to allow museums and galleries to continue to receive the rebate, even if entrance fees are abolished.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Discussions are ongoing. We can not confirm anything at this stage."

Free entrance for children to national museums in England was granted in April 1999 and for the over 60s from April last year.

It is not thought national museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be affected by the deal because they are funded by their own parliament and assemblies.

The National Museum of Scotland has already agreed to axe entry fees from April this year, while the National Museum and Gallery of Wales is negotiating with the National Assembly for Wales to drop prices to 1 in the future.

The Ulster Museum does not currently charge for its main site.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Catherine Marston
"A deal has been done between the Treasury and the Dept of Culture"
The BBC's political editor Andrew Marr
"Campaigners for free access say this news will change many attitudes"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Pay as you go
Should museums charge an entrance fee?
See also:

18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Museum rescue 'to cost taxpayer 25m'
03 Apr 00 | UK
Museum visits for 1
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