“I knew very little about mesothelioma until I became aware of its effects, not least through the early death in 2009 of the former Bishop of Peterborough, who some Members may recall” – Bishop of Newcastle
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating this short debate. I speak to support him and to encourage the Government to enable the establishment of a mesothelioma research funding scheme as urgently as possible. Research into this form of cancer is very much the Cinderella of cancer research in the UK, and there is an urgent need for us to do more and to do better.
I knew very little about mesothelioma until I became aware of its effects, not least through the early death in 2009 of the former Bishop of Peterborough, who some Members may recall. The knowledge that the cause of this cancer has been working away unknown and undetected in one’s body for 20 years or more suggests to me that much more research into detection and treatment is absolutely vital.
It is reckoned that this year over 2,000 people will die of the disease in the United Kingdom. We have the highest rate of the disease in the world, and a similar rate to those dying of myeloma and melanoma. However, the problem is that the funding for mesothelioma research lags far, far behind; it is only about one-tenth, from the figures that I have seen. If it is true that every single week an average of 20 tradespeople in the UK die from diseases such as this which are linked to exposure to asbestos during their working lives, then that is a tragedy.
I know that the Minister is sympathetic to the needs of all those who suffer from this terrible disease, and that he is sympathetic to the need for more research. If I may, I urge him to be really proactive in his work with his colleagues, academics, the NHS and the insurance industry to establish a sustainable research funding scheme. It is self-evident to me that more and sustainable funding will attract greater quality research to an area that has been neglected and underresourced for so long.