On 17th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James took part in the debate on the Report Stage of the Mesothelioma Bill. The Bishop, recalling that the former Bishop of Peterborough Ian Cundy had suffered from Mesothelioma before his death in 2009, spoke in support of a group of amendments which sought to impose a levy to stimulate research. The Bishop argued that the proposed levy would stimulate more high-quality researchers to think that mesothelioma was a worthwhile and reliable area in which to have a sustained work programme. A division was called on Lord Alton’s amendment on research funding. More information can be found here.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments and I thank the Minister for his work, which was well illustrated at the beginning of this debate. I knew very little about mesothelioma until I saw its debilitating effects on friends, including the former Bishop of Peterborough, Ian Cundy, who some Members may recall died in 2009. The knowledge that the cause of this cancer has been lurking in one’s body for 20 years or more of active life may suggest in itself that more research into detection and treatment may prove valuable. There is nothing that can be done to rewrite someone’s life history, which may include often unwitting exposure to asbestos while young, but much can be done to promote research into a disease that will kill 2,400 people in the UK this year—the equivalent of wiping out one of Norfolk’s smaller market towns within 12 months. If that sort of tragedy happened it would be front page news but this passes us by too easily.
I am not sure that even now I fully understand why mesothelioma is such a Cinderella of cancer research but this amendment provides a practical way of providing a corrective. The levy proposed is practical and proportionate and it might even stimulate more high-quality researchers to think that this is a worthwhile and reliable area in which to have a sustained work programme over many years. I recognise too that it may even stimulate more voluntary contributions to such research, quite apart from what the Government may give. I also understand that it has some support within the insurance industry. Although I have no expertise in this area, from all that I have read—I am very grateful for the way in which the proposers of this amendment have circulated the House with such material—I hope the Minister will look on this proposal or something like it sympathetically.