Overseas aid agencies fear Lottery Bill revision

An attempt to block lottery money from going towards foreign projects is causing anxiety among international aid charities.

The Conservatives are proposing to amend the National Lottery Bill next month, to say lottery money should benefit only UK projects.

"It would reduce funding to development work by £15m a year," said Martin Lang, programme development manager at Action on Disability and Development, which last year received £400,000 to assist disabled people in Bangladesh.

"That is a significant amount."

Tree Aid, whose agricultural projects in Africa have received more than £700,000 of lottery grants, agrees a withdrawal could have devastating effects. "The value per pound of lottery money spent fighting poverty overseas is not easily overestimated," said Tony Hall, programmes support director at Tree Aid. "It makes a lot of difference."

But Viscount Astor, the Tory lottery spokesman who will propose the amendment during the Bill's Lords stages, argued that the public does not want money spent on international projects. In 1998, there was widespread criticism when a £420,000 lottery grant went to the Cusichaca Trust to breed fatter guinea pigs in Peru.

Astor's view is supported by last week's YouGov poll that suggested 79 per cent of Britons would prefer lottery money to benefit a recognisable UK charity.

But the international development charity VSO, which has received £1.6m from the National Lottery since 2003, disagrees.

"Last year's response to international crises such as the south Asian tsunami demonstrated that international issues are of great concern to British people," said Judith Brodie, UK group director at VSO.

"Charities such as VSO also make a valuable contribution to UK civil society, because volunteers return home with skills and experiences that help increase cultural awareness," she added.

- See Policy and Politics, page 16.

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