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Fighting mesothelioma from the House of Lords

Lord Alton visited our helpline while campaigning for mesothelioma research funding.

Lord David AltonRecently, I was delighted to visit the British Lung Foundation Helpline in my hometown of Liverpool.

While there I saw first-hand the wonderful work they do - the helpline deals with inquiries from people with various lung conditions, their families and carers. It provides them assistance and advice regardless of circumstance.

So often, people who live with lung conditions feel isolated and alone. This is why it is so important organisations like the BLF are here to provide support.

The dedication and compassion I witnessed from the operators and nurses was truly inspiring. It is this dedication and compassion that we in Westminster must show to the mesothelioma community.


Mesothelioma is a devastating disease caused by exposure to asbestos, and the UK has the highest recorded mesothelioma deaths than any other country.

It has already claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people, who most likely contracted the illness by simply turning up to work.

It is a great injustice that we do not have statutory funding for research into an illness that affects so many hard working members of society. It is only through research that we will be able to understand mesothelioma, develop treatments and find a cure.

This is why we must secure funding for mesothelioma research and why I have been campaigning for just that. Last year I moved an amendment to the Mesothelioma Bill in the House of Lords which would require every employer liability insurer to pay a small annual levy to fund mesothelioma research.

This would have raised £1.5 million for research each year. That is a very small amount of money to insurance companies - but a great fortune for research opportunities.

We must push forward

Sadly, the amendment was defeated and we lost by just seven votes. This was however not a time to give up. This was a sign we must push forward.

Political support for the issue has been on the rise. I welcomed news from the Labour party in July, on Action Mesothelioma Day, that they are committed to ensuring funding for mesothelioma research. This support from the opposition party of the UK shows how the issue is well poised on the political agenda.

In January I tabled a Private Members’ Bill to reintroduce the amendment to the Mesothelioma Act 2014. We are yet to see if this will get the chance to be debated in the House of Lords, but I am committed that the issue will not be pushed into the shadows of the parliamentary timetable and that mesothelioma research funding will return to centre spotlight. This time when it does, we will not lose.

Meeting so many dedicated people at the British Lung Foundation has shown me that while respiratory health is greatly underfunded, we are capable of achieving amazing things.

This gives me hope that when we secure substantial long term funding for mesothelioma, and we will, what we will achieve will be truly remarkable.

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10 October 2014