Dame Vera accuses miserly companies

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The Independent Online
SOME of Britain's biggest companies have defended their decision not to give money to Tribute and Promise, which israising money for the wartime generation, writes Will Bennett.

Although donations have varied - from a large sum from the Queen Mother to a prison inmate's pounds 187 - corporate support has raised less than pounds 500,000. This prompted an accusation of miserliness from Forces Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.

British Gas, which made pounds 605m in the first quarter of this year alone, admitted that it had not given anything to Tribute and Promise, an alliance of more than 100 charitable, welfare and voluntary groups.

A British Gas spokesman said: "We have a corporate sponsorship scheme which, in 1994, provided pounds 1.3m, and war veterans, the elderly and the disabled have benefited from that."

Manchester United football club gave just pounds 50. A spokeswoman for the club explained: "We think it is better to give little and often rather than a lot less frequently."

Boots, the chemists' chain, which made pounds 525m last year, has a charitable trust which hands out about pounds 4m annually. It favours organisations which are health or education-based and decided that Tribute and Promise did not fall within this field.

But the corporate picture is not entirely bleak. As old soldiers began to gather at the VJ Day veterans' centre near Westminster Abbey on Friday, they were surprised to find a horse-drawn brewers' dray outside and to be handed a bottle of beer by Brigadier Doug Cantley, chief executive of Tribute and Promise. The dray had brought a cheque for pounds 50,000 from Bass, the brewers. The money had been raised from sales of 1945 Ale, brewed specially for the 50th anniversaries of VE and VJ Day.

Donations can still be made to PO Box 1945, London EC1R OBX.