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3 Jul 1996 : Column WA105

Written Answers

Wednesday, 3rd July 1996.

EU Enlargement: Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any estimates of the cost of the enlargement of the European Union to 24 members; and whether these developments are likely to provide value for money; and if only one of these enlargements can be afforded, which they consider would be the best value for money.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): It is impossible to predict accurately yet what the exact costs of EU enlargement will be. EU enlargement provides an opportunity to secure long-term stability and prosperity throughout Europe if achieved on the right terms. To this end the UK government will continue to press for the reform of key EU policies which is necessary to make enlargement both possible and affordable.

Museums and Galleries: Admission Charges

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they wish to encourage or discourage the principle of access for non-paying casual visitors to museums and galleries in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): The Government aim to encourage greater access to all museums and galleries and are pleased to note that, excluding the Royal Armouries, for which figures are not available, visits to museums and galleries sponsored by the Department of National Heritage have risen from 19.94 million in 1989-90 to an estimated 24.3 million in 1995-96. The Government believe, however, that the decision as to whether or not charges should be levied is a matter for the trustees of each institution.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Charges

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How far they expect attendance figures at the Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington site) to fall following the proposed introduction of admission charges in 1996; and whether they view this matter with concern; and

    How far attendance figures at the Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington site) fell following the introduction of voluntary donations on admittance in 1985.

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Lord Inglewood: The Victoria and Albert Museum introduced voluntary donations to the South Kensington site in November 1985. The V&A has estimated that in 1984 there were 1,690,122 visits to the site, and in 1986, 1,022,328 visits.

The V&A does not anticipate a significant drop in attendance figures, as many of their visitors are used to paying, albeit on a voluntary basis.

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Department of National Heritage will make good the shortfall of £1 million grant-in-aid which the Victoria and Albert Museum states is responsible for their decision to introduce admission charges in October of this year, or whether they intend to take any other steps to encourage the Victoria and Albert Museum to reverse the decision.

Lord Inglewood: The Government will consider most carefully the level of grant-in-aid for the Victoria and Albert Museum but I cannot anticipate the outcome of the forthcoming public expenditure round which will be announced on Budget Day. As to reversing the Museum's decision to introduce admission charges, that is a matter entirely for the Museum's Board of Trustees. The Government notes, however, that the Victoria and Albert Museum has stated that free entry will be maintained for students and those under 18, that there will be free or concessionary entry for many other groups, and that there will be periods of free access for all.

Asylum Seekers:Home Office Country Assessments

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to Baroness Blatch's Answer of 20th June (H.L. Deb., col. 447), why they believe that adjudicators, rather than Parliament, are the appropriate people to scrutinise Home Office country assessments.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Formal country assessments are not prepared on all countries, but, where they are, they are made available to Parliament.

Physical Education and Sport in Schools: DfEE Report

Lord Beloff asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to publish the report of the survey by the Department for Education and Employment into schools' provision of physical education and sport.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): I have today arranged for a copy of the report to be placed in the Library.

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RAF Menwith Hill: Telecommunications Interception

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether interception of telecommunications is conducted by the US National Security Agency at

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    Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire; and, if so, what messages are intercepted and for what purpose.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): It is not government policy to comment on the detailed operations at RAF Menwith Hill. However no activity considered inimical to British interests is, or would be, permitted at the station.



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