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Billion pounds of lottery cash may aid homework

Midweek lottery profits of #163;1 billion would be diverted to fund education and health projects, "the people's priorities", under a Labour government.

Schools will get money to run out-of-hours homework clubs, and computer-shy teachers will be given training in information technology to "clear the skills backlog once and for all", said Labour leader Tony Blair this week.

There will be help for talented students in science, technology and the arts. Money for a national network of "healthy living centres", offering advice on fitness and overall health, is also promised.

Labour estimates the mid-week lottery will have generated #163;1 billion of "good causes" money by 2001, three years into the next government. The party is critical of the way the lottery funds have been allocated so far, pointing to major regional discrepancies in the awards, and arguing that important sections of the population have failed to benefit.

Labour is promising to replace Camelot, which runs the lottery, with a non-profit operator in 2001.

"This new fund will give a real boost to schools across the country enabling teachers to gain vital IT skills and offering youngsters a quiet place to do their homework as well as the chance to take part in a range of activities, " said Labour's education and employment spokesman David Blunkett.

Labour promises that a substantial portion of the lottery money would be directed towards its Education Action Zones, in areas of urban deprivation.Mr Blunkett said that the new homework clubs should allow more children to meet Labour's homework guideline of 90 minutes for secondary pupils and 30 minutes for seven- to 11-year-olds.

Labour spokesmen said that their government would welcome bids for funding for additional schemes on top of the four described this week. Each project, says Labour, would have clear targets and strict time-limits.

Some #163;150 million would be spent on after-school clubs which Labour wants to see in half of all secondary schools and a quarter of primaries by 2001. Secondary schools bidding for money could expect to receive around #163;10,000 in capital start-up funding. Labour hopes the project could be run in conjunction with organisations such as the Prince's Trust.

There would be #163;250 million made available to support and train teachers in the use of information technology.

The National Endowment for Science and the Arts would be "a national trust for talent, helping to turn bright ideas into successful innovative businesses". Labour hopes to persuade leading figures in these fields to contribute part of their copyright proceeds to help establish the endowment.

A Conservative party spokesman said that declining lottery revenue meant that Labour's calculations about the extra revenue for good causes were wrong. "Labour doesn't understand how the lottery works," he said. "There is no extra billion. The mid-week lottery was introduced because of a shortfall in the total money available for good causes."

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