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Saturday, 25 July, 1998, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Arts world embrace Smith's shake-up
Chris Smith: Promises to turn back the clock
Senior figures in the arts world have greeted government plans to turn back the clock on museums which have started charging for entry.

News that major collections such as that at the Science and Natural History Museums would be free to all by 2001 received a warm welcome from industry insiders.

There was also general appreciation for the wider package of reforms, detailed by Culture Secretary Chris Smith as part of a far-reaching review. It includes the setting up of an arts watchdog and a new one-stop agency for British film.

The Natural History Museum will soon be free
Mr Smith set out free entry to national museums and galleries as a cornerstone policy that is part of a 290m package for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

He also declared a substantial 125m boost for the arts, but along with tourism, museums, sport and heritage, its quangos face major reform.

Chief among these is the creation of the new Film Council, which will oversee the combined roles of British Screen, the British Film Institute, the British Film Commission and the Art's Council's lottery funding. All these will be abolished.

Also in the line of fire was the Football Licensing Authority, which is likely to be reconstituted, and the Arts Council, which will be streamlined to incorporate the Craft Council.

The threat of charges at the Tate has been lifted
In tourism, English Heritage will subsume the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, Mr Smith said.

He also proposed setting up a watchdog to oversee bodies receiving grants from the ministry, to ensure performance and efficiency, and disseminate good practice.

Museums and galleries welcomed the new deal, which also ends the threat of entrance charges at currently free institutions.

National Gallery Director Neil McGregor said: "It is a Millennium promise which has delighted all of us."

Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate Gallery, was "delighted that government has recognised the crucial part which museums and galleries play in the education and enjoyment of millions of people across the country".

Paying to get into major museums will soon be scrapped
Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage, embraced plans for a "single, clearly defined heritage body" which would "make us more effective".

From sport, Derek Casey, Chief Executive of the English Sports Council, said the government had shown "a clear commitment to sport, sports development and the health of the nation".

But the Shadow Culture Secretary, Peter Ainsworth, accused Mr Smith of "meddlesome and disruptive" proposals.

"Typically for a government with a control-freak mentality, these plans represent a massive extension of state interference in areas which have historically enjoyed a degree of independence," he said.

He strongly criticised the decision to close the English Tourist Board - sentiments echoed by the body itself.

See also:

24 Jul 98 | UK
No museum entry fee in 2001
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