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Lottery Grants (Charities)

Oral Answers to Questions — National Heritage – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1997.

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Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles 12:00 am, 3rd March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage to what extent the revised criteria for national lottery grants will support the work of British charities providing emergency medical relief in the developing world, with special reference to Merlin; and if she will make a statement. [16701]

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

Charities based in the United Kingdom and working overseas, including Merlin, were eligible to apply for a grant from the National Lottery Charities Board under its international grants programme. In framing the priorities and policies for the programme, the board consulted British charities and voluntary organisations working overseas. Their view was that funds would be best spent in supporting long-term development to help people to help themselves, rather than on emergency provision, for which there were other sources of funding.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles

In view of the declining aid budget, the effect of the lottery on small charities and the fact that the requirement to plan nine months in advance makes it difficult for organisations such as Merlin—which is, as the Secretary of State said, an emergency relief organization—should not the criteria be changed to include, say, training for staff, the stockpiling of medicine and the provision of infrastructure? That would enable such organisations to qualify for lottery money, and exclude them from the nine-month criterion. Will the Secretary of State consider that proposal?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

The hon. Lady will be aware that these precise decisions are matters for the charities board. I think that it will examine the £25 million of the first round to see what lessons can be learned, but I commend it on the fact that almost £500 million has been allocated in virtually 7,000 awards. I am pleased that some charities about which the hon. Lady is concerned have benefited. I believe that the Red Cross, for example, has had about 12 awards; Oxfam, too, has received an award, and I know that it hopes for a substantial award in the new round. I wish Merlin well and greatly respect its work.