Asbestos sufferers have been outraged at insensitive comments made by soon to retire tory MP ahead of the general election.  In her regular column on the Daily Express’s website

we solicitors was outraged at her complete lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by asbestos victims and their families so we complained to the office of David Cameron and Stephen O’Brien MP, Shadow Minister for Health & Social Care

There responses are set out below

On this particular issue, I appreciate your concerns and have noted the points you raise.

We feel there is an urgent need to research an effective treatment for malignant mesothelioma in particular – it is a devastating cancer with an appalling prognosis, which is resistant to current treatment.  This is why we need to give hope to current patients and future victims.  As things stand, mesothelioma is the least researched major cancer, even though the UK is a world leader in running clinical trials.

An incoming Conservative Government would like to give a boost for research particularly into mesothelioma.  We are keen to see multiple private potential sources of funding being made available in a co-ordinated fashion.  This will include industry and trade unions; the insurance industry; public and private benefactors; and research charities.  Although in the current climate it is impossible to commit new funding, there may be scope for redirection of funding already with the Government medical research agencies, thus delivering a clearer National Research Strategy.

We, therefore, back the Government’s decision to establish a working group to identify options for streamlining and speeding up compensations claims for those diagnosed with mesothelioma, and I have made our Justice team aware of your thoughts on this issue.

Regarding your concerns about the comments made by Ann Widdecombe. Ann is a Backbench Conservative Member of Parliament and, of course, all Backbench MPs are free to express views that do not necessarily reflect the official position of their Party. It is an important principal that Backbench MPs maintain their independence to speak freely on issues that are important to them or regard their own constituencies.

Anna Biles

David Cameron’s Correspondence Unit

Conservative Campaign Headquarters

Thank you for your email expressing your dissatisfaction about the recent comments of Ann Widdecombe MP. I dissociate myself 100% from the comments of the soon-to-retire MP in this matter. As you know she is an independent-minded backbencher who does not, I repeat not, speak for the Conservative Party in this matter. On the contrary, I do, along with my fellow Shadow Ministerial colleagues. I have done a huge amount to highlight and stand up for those who have suffered and died, and continue to suffer, and their families over many years – my constituents will testify to that. At a personal level within my own family I have experience of the terrors of chronic lung disease.

As a fellow solicitor – although I haven’t practiced for many years – I salute your passion and professionalism for your clients – equally as a former manufacturing industrialist in building materials, where I was part of the top team at my company who, when offered the chance to make money by acquiring an asbestos-fibre roof tile business rejected doing so as on the limited knowledge of the time, we were not prepared to take any risks with our employees’ or customers’ health. I am glad to be a member of the Cheshire asbestos victims support group.

Stephen O’Brien MP

Shadow Minister for Health & Social Care