MP distances himself from row over Rwanda charity donations

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The Independent Online
TIM RENTON, the Conservative MP at the centre of the Rwanda charity money row, yesterday refused to answer questions about the affair.

Mr Renton, a former chief whip and minister for the arts, was chairman of Interactive Telephone Services (ITS), which it is alleged has been making up to pounds 12,500 a day from donations to help the relief effort in Rwanda. ITS is running the crisis hotline and charging 50p for each call it receives. High street banks make no charge for handling donations.

Mr Renton, under pressure from journalists, issued a written statement from his holiday cottage on the Hebridean island of Tiree but refused to comment.

The statement said he had resigned as chairman of companies in the ITS Group on 28 July 'as the result of a policy difference over the future direction of the companies. Our parting was amicable but I did not think that I could contribute any more to their future development. I no longer have any connection with either company except that I am a shareholder in ITS Group plc.'

Mr Renton, who has a daughter working for Oxfam, later asked the police to escort reporters from his home, claiming harassment.

Tom Clarke, Labour's overseas development spokesman, said he was writing to the Prime Minister to ask for a change in charity commission rules which allow private firms to charge up to 7 per cent of funds raised towards their costs.

ITS is under investigation by the fraud squad over its Telemillion telephone prize draw game, which was suspended amid accusations that it was a game of chance and therefore an illegal lottery. Nigel Linacre, ITS marketing director, said: 'At the moment, the volume of calls means that we are making no profit whatsoever. We do not believe we are doing anything wrong.

'We have made a massive investment of around pounds 5m in equipment, which means we can offer charities a very efficient service.'