Anger turns to hope in asbestos cancer victim amendment
Date published: 25 April 2012
An important amendment in a controversial Parliamentary Bill was reheard in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday 24 April).
Local concern had been expressed about a move in Parliament to force asbestos cancer victims to pay a proportion of their own legal costs. Concern turned to anger as a result of the apparent behaviour of a Minister attending last week's Commons debate on the controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishing of Offenders Bill.
Under Secretary of State for Justice Jonathan Djanogly was rebuked by the Speaker for appearing to giggle and smirk. When asked to explain his behaviour Mr Djanogly fell silent.
Tony Whitston of the local charity Greater Manchester Asbestos Victim Support Group GMAVSG reacted angrily:
“Watching the debate on the Lords' amendment to exempt mesothelioma sufferers from paying legal costs, I was moved by the compassion showed by so many MPs, from all parties, for those dying from this terrible disease, but I was shocked by the dismissive and contemptuous response by the Minister, Jonathan Djanogly, who smirked and laughed throughout the debate when MPs were discussing such a serious matter. His shameful behaviour stood in stark contrast to some Conservative MPs who spoke of the distress of their constituents who suffer from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma”.
Jason Addy, co-ordinator of the Save Spodden Valley (SSV) campaign, that seeks a solution to the former Turner Brothers asbestos site – once the world's largest - is also completing a PhD in occupational and environmental disease law at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He has been researching the recent developments in Parliament that threatens to change access to justice for asbestos victims and their families.
He reflected on recent and ongoing events in Parliament: “It is unfortunate that asbestos disease claimants are the cross-fire of a Bill to restrict some sorts of accident claims. The vast majority of these fall under the 'slip and trip' or road traffic 'whiplash' category. For insurance industry lobbyists to suggest that asbestos cancer victims are 'ambulance chasers' or part of a 'compensation culture' is very insulting. I have never met a single victim of the cruel diseases caused by asbestos who wouldn't have traded every penny of any compensation received to have their health back so that they could have enjoyed life with their families and loved ones.
“Although the amendment to protect asbestos cancer victims was lost, the majority was more than halved to just 36 votes. This was one of the closest votes since the tuition fees debates and is testament to a combination of MPs from all parties who spoke and voted with their consciences.
"The Bill still has a way to go throughout Parliament so hopefully, the facts about the injustices of asbestos disease can be heard and common sense could prevail.
"Our local MPs Simon Danczuk and Jim Dobbin have been very supportive and have worked with Parliamentarians from the North West – of all parties – to raise important issues about asbestos, still Britain's biggest industrial killer.
"I'd particularly like to pay tribute to Lord Alton who, with quiet diplomacy is leading a dignified campaign, across party lines, to highlight these very important issues.”
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