Mesothelioma is contracted from exposure to asbestos - even the tiniest amount will prove fatal once it's in the lung. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Kate Green MP: We must invest in research into asbestos-caused lung conditions

On Action for Mesothelioma Day, the shadow minister for disabled people writes about raising awareness of a fatal disease contracted from exposure to asbestos.

This Friday marks Action for Mesothelioma Day, when victims, families and campaigners will come together to remember those lost to this terrible lung cancer, and to discuss the actions needed to bring justice to those who suffered, simply as a result of going about their daily lives.

Mesothelioma is contracted from exposure to asbestos - even the tiniest amount will prove fatal once it's in the lung. However, diagnosis comes only many years after exposure, leaving victims living with a timebomb inside their bodies, of which they may know nothing until they have only a few short months to live. By then, as this appalling and distressing disease takes hold, fighting for compensation may be the last thing on their and their families' minds. But though the risk has been known for decades, and many people contracted the disease from exposure at work, it still proves difficult for many to secure the compensation they deserve.

This year, thankfully, there will be something to celebrate. The Mesothelioma Act, passed with cross -party support earlier this year, brings the chance of payment for their suffering closer for some. But many will remain uncompensated - and the notion that exposure to asbestos is a thing of the past is dangerously wrong.

Today, asbestos lingers in thousands of our buildings: schools, hospitals, transport system, and factories, here and abroad. While it poses no threat if left undisturbed, its widespread presence creates a perpetual and significant risk. Raising awareness of this risk is therefore vital - as is ensuring that we continue to invest in the clinical research that's needed into the treatment and prevention of the disease.

During the Mesothelioma Act's passage through parliament, many MPs and peers called for the government to secure the necessary funding for such research. Everyone  - government, clinicians, victims and their families, the industry itself - agrees that the insurance industry should contribute to this funding. Yet talks to secure it have stalled.   So it again falls to government to take the necessary action to ensure funding is put on a sustainable footing, and that call will be the focus of this year's Action for Mesothelioma Day.

Thousands of individuals who will die of this disease still do not even know they've contracted it. Investing now in the research that could prevent them from an otherwise certain and deeply distressing death is the least they deserve, and as, according to the British Lung Foundation,  the UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world, it is  surely right that we should lead the way. That is why a Labour government will make it our priority to secure the sustainable funding  we need.

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston and shadow minister for disabled people

Kate Green is Labour MP for Stretford and Umston and was shadow minister for women and equalities before resigning in June 2016.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

0800 7318496