Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Kieran back home


Kieran arrived back home late last night. There was a worry that he wouldn't be home as his dads girlfriends car had a crack in the windscreen and was told it would get worse while driving. The station is an hour away. Kieran had called and said "bad news mum, I won't be home till tomorrow". That all changed after his dads girlfriend went to a garage and was told it would be ok to drive.
Kieran arrived at 10:45pm, a tired little bean arrived home and told me about his Christmas.

We are off out later this afternoon, I am taking Kieran to see a Christmas carol 3D and we are going for pizza afterwards.
I am looking forward to spending some time with him.
Siobhan has gone to her boyfriends for a few days and Rich is at Tina's house as she is away in Japan, so it is just the Bean and I.
It is so good to have him back home.
The article in the paper had a very good response. It was great to see that the local media are serious about asbestos and mesothelioma.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Hold the front page!!!


I was excited to see that this morning I am front page news, Diana, a journalist at the local news paper, the evening herald, wrote an article and it is front page!
She has written it very well, i am pleased with it and the picture of Kieran and I is beautiful.
Copy and paste the link below to see it.

http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/news/Undefined-Headline/article-1651193-detail/article.html

This will give the cause a lot more publicity hopefully.






Monday, 28 December 2009

Remembering Chris.

It is with great sadness that I heard Chris had fell asleep on christmas day.
He got in touch a year ago and was seeing Professor Vogl.
It does make me angry that anyone has to go through this disease and a family is torn apart. Chris, like many others, got the disease through no fault of his own.
His wife said that the treatment have given them extra time together, This is what makes me want to continue shouting. If Prof Vogl's treatment was available on the NHS, maybe a lot of meso sufferers would have a longer life expectancy.
There is no known cure for meso but Prof Vogl's trial seems to have an impact on it.

Thoughts and condolences are sent to Chris's wife and family at this difficult time.

Todays blog is dedicated to Chris and his family.


Sunday, 27 December 2009

I hate Mesothelioma!!!

Another lovely person has passed away because of asbestos and mesothelioma.
It makes me so angry that this damn disease can carry on destroying lives and families and all who have it are expected to sit back and accept it. Well, Sorry, no I won't!!!
I have never accepted that this disease will take me and am more determined than ever that I will get through 2010 and many more years.
Is human life so indispensable that we aren't worth saving?
It is a political cancer, mesothelioma doesn't fit in with other cancers. All cancers are terrible and it is about time that governments sat up and looked at this national health service and see what it has become. It is a lottery, it is only certain people who get treatment while others have to kick and scream for it. The majority who get mesothelioma have worked all their lives and paid their NHS stamp for health care and then find they are shut out of treatment.
Prime example, when I was diagnosed I was sent away to die... literally, no radio therapy on the lymph node that was going to make my cancer grow. Then I find a treatment to reduce my tumour and all of a sudden I can have radio therapy on that very same lymph node.

Wake up governments, there is a revolution coming!!!

Rant over!!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing day 2009

I was a little busy this morning, I went to Cornwall with Siobhan to pick up her boyfriend, he will be satying with us for a couple of days. I was so pleased it wasn't icy this morning as I was going to say I would not pick him up but all was good, no ice, just rain.
I came back had lunch and then took Rich to Tina's house. He is looking after the dogs while she is in Japan with her son.
Yesterday was so quiet, I felt so lonely, Kieran decided he wanted to see his dad, mainly to get his presents I think. He is off to Dunstable tomorrow. Siobhan and Rich were upstairs on their games consoles and I was on my own with Stork and Cookie for company. I did have a little tear for my dad. I remembered his Christmas ritual of mince pies and rum. Such a wonderful man who I never really got the opportunity to celebrate with that often.
My sister, Wendy came in today with her husband and grand daughter. I bought her a bag and she loved it.
It was good to see her and it was her first visit to our new house.
I love my house, it feels right. How can a building feel that this is where we should be? I feel like I have lived here for ever. I don't think of the old house very much, only to remember our first time in that little house. It was ours, mine and my fiance's, very much like the young couple who have moved in. They love it and I am so pleased they do.
I am not sure what I am doing tomorrow. I am going to take it easy, the chest infection has nearly gone. I would like to go back to work as I miss my friends but I have such a lot to sort out there. I will be arranging a meeting with my boss to discuss what I do.

Congratulations to Karryann, her dad died of Mesothelioma in 2008, she has just had a baby boy. Both mum and baby are doing well. Tony would be very proud I am sure.

The children and I will be haveing a new year party in our new house. Bad taste dress sense is the theme so it should be fun.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Kieran opening his present.

video

Merry Christmas 2009.


Well, this is the 3rd Christmas since diagnosis and I am prepared to fight Mesothelioma to celebrate many more.
Theo has been absolutely wonderful and I hope that continues. I will find out the results of the radio therapy in February 2010.

Kieran decided to go to his dads this morning, he is so excited about getting his presents that he didn't want to wait until tomorrow.
He loved the present that I got for him, his own laptop!! hoorah!! I can now get on with my blog when I want to without arguing with Kieran.

Merry Christmas to all who read Meso and me, a special mention to Ali who is without Stpeh this year. All who log onto Meso and Me know how hard it gets as we miss special people we have lost.
I miss my lovely dad so much, this was one of his favourite times of the year. He would always make mince pies and sing his karaoke. He was such a fun loving person.


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Cold, wet and miserable, not me....the weather!!

It has been the coldest winter I can remember for a long time. There is ice on the roads and it is so dark and cold outside. Hard to think last week there was sunshine and blue skies.
I am feeling much better, the antibiotics are doing their job. I need to get out and pick up a perscription but am reluctant due to the weather.
My sister, Wendy, and I usually go into the city centre very early on Christmas eve but it may not happen this year. The ice is lethal and I don't want to crash my little car up.

I have to say congratulations to Riccy Hill as he has had a good result from the chemoembolisation treatment. The Prof will be busy writing up the data of the treatment. I really hope 2010 is the year for the treatment and that we do get it trialed in the UK and USA.

Kieran is back home today, he will be with us till boxing day and then off with his dad to Dunstable to stay with his dad and his new girlfriend. I cannot say what i have got him for Christmas, he may read the blog, he doesn't miss much!
Siobhan is here anyway and Rich will be back on Christmas eve as he is looking after Tina's dogs while she is away in Japan.
It is going to be wonderful I am sure.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Cold days ahead


It has been so cold these past few days, there was a little snow yesterday but it didn't settle.
The antibiotics seemed to be working. I had a good nights sleep until 5:30am this morning. I woke up sure I could hear the sound of a child and investigated it only to find Cookie the kitten with a mouse. I tried to get it before she did the nasty bit but I was too late. She eventually dropped it but not after protesting her argument that she should be able to keep her trophy.....
Lovely cat!!!

I didn't go out yesterday but ventured out to see my sister, Wendy today.
I haven't seen her for a while as she has been busy with her family. It was good to see her though. She is looking forward to seeing her grand daughters over the Christmas period.
I am happy not being a Grandma at the moment, I am enjoying my free time. Kieran is with his dad for a couple of days which is giving me a bit of time to recover.
i have an appointment on 27th January for a CT scan and see Dr D in February to get the results of the radio therapy treatment. I will be getting another sick note for work as this is a very tough time, I always find I feel very low before a scan and appointment.
I am hoping for good results but am happy with no change, I don't want any growth!!!

Theo has been brilliant this past year and seems to be enjoying Germany, Hopefully he is showing Linda Lymph node around and she likes it too. i don't know how she can resist him, he is a gorgeous man.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Happy Birthday Kieran.


Kieran is 13 today, it is such a shame I feel unwell as I was planning on taking him to the railway station. I had a bad night and feel very tired. I am sure it is a chest infection, I am going to keep an eye on it.
Kieran had a couple of friends over and one of them is sleeping over tonight, he hasn't done this before and I am hoping this is the first of many.
It is a shame it has been a bit of a flat day for him but he seems to have enjoyed it.
Tomorrow i am going to have a relaxing day. Rich is staying at my friends as she has gone away for a couple of weeks. Siobhan is home and Kieran will be with his dad tomorrow night so I can get a bit of time to myself.

Acid coughing fit!!

It is 2:12 am and I have been woken by the burning of acid and a coughing fit. I think this is all due to the radio therapy. I got a little frightened as I was getting very breathless.
I kept on seeing an ambulance having to come to the house and Kieran upstairs unaware of the panic in the room below him.
I have had some inhaler and it seems to be settling. I feel like there is a lot of muck and a burning sensation on my oesophagus. It is so uncomfortable and it is so cold here. I took the opportunity to put my electric blanket on before I cam down stairs.
It seems to be easing off as I write this and hope it stays that way.

It is Kieran's 13th birthday today so I don't want any nasty surprises for him when he wakes up.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Christmas service with Kieran.


Kieran had his Christmas service at school today. It was in the local church and was lovely as usual. I am so proud of him as the past few months have been so hard for him but since he has been in a different class, he is coping much better.
I had lunch with Friends yesterday and the day before. It has been a busy time. Kieran will be 13 tomorrow, my little boy will be a teenager. Where does the time go?
Siobhan is out tonight and Rich is finishing his last couple of days at the royal mail office. I am looking forward to having a lovely Christmas with my babies.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

My gorgeous dad would have been 72 today, I still miss him so much. When we packed up the old house, I looked at his pictures before I took them off the wall and said I hoped he would come to our new house with us, I am sure he has.
My life has had a massive turn around since he died.
I found out 3 months after he died that I had Mesothelioma. 2006 was a very tough year, we all felt the loss of my dad.
The strangest thing happened on the day of his funeral, Rich had been his usual self and ran out of the house as we were getting ready to leave. Siobhan and I went to dad's funeral, in the evening we were sat in the living room when we heard the door close and footsteps were heard going up the stairs, it sounded like 2 at a time.
I thought Rich may have come home and I was ready for another battle, Siobhan said it was too early for her boyfriend to come back after work. I decided to investigate. i went upstairs and looked in the 2 bedrooms and the bathroom, nothing was there.
I called Siobhan and asked her what she heard, she explained that she had heard the door and the footprints. I told her the rooms were empty..... strange.
I mentioned this to my sister Wendy the next day, she said she had a similar experience the same night. She had gone to bed and her children were out all evening. She had heard her middle door open and close, when she investigated it, no one was there.

I feel my dad has guided me through my Germany treatment and has not left my side since he died. That is why I asked him to come with us, he is still around, taking care of his family.

Dad, if your listening, I love you and always will. Thank you for being with me when I needed you the most, I used to love your wise words, so many wonderful things you said about life and how we all have a destiny, "Its all mapped out in front of you" you used to say, I think you were right.
You are welcome to stay with us for as long as you want to, this is your new home too for a s long as you want it.
I love you
Debbie x x x xx

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Choosing a new bed!!




I have had a busy day today, first there was lunch with Ali and Jules and then off to buy a bed. I wasn't intending on buying one today but I do need one and after lunch Jules and I went to look at beds in a place she said was good and reasonable. We had a great time, the salesman said "try the beds" , so I did! I had a try of an ordinary mattress and a memory foam one. The memory foam mattress won hands down, even Jules and the salesman tried it!!
I gave Jules my camera and off we went, it was great fun. I got a free memory pillow to go with my new memory mattress and bed which is being delivered tomorrow.
I went home afterwards, had a quick bite to eat then off out to have a coffee with Tina. She is off to Japan for Christmas, her son lives there with his wife. I am going to miss her but we will make up for it when she gets back I am sure.
Rich is staying at Tina's house to look after her dogs, this will get him away from my nagging, I asked him to take the wheelie bin out ready for the morning, and I guessed right, he didn't do it.
Thanks son!! Kieran will be home tomorrow and has enjoyed being with his dad.
Tomorrow it is lunch again with my friends, also my new bed will be here, Woo hoo!!! can't wait!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

windows done today.

The weather has turned very cold over the last few days, it is freezing out and today is the day i picked to have our windows replaced. The bathroom one was the most important, it had 2 separate windows in one and daylight could be seen between the join. Also the small windows would close as they were locked and we don't have the keys. When we had a shower, it was like Siberia coming out of it. Now it should be a lot warmer. I treated the children and I to heated fitted covers for our beds, this is were they will be used the most. It is so lovely to get into a warm bed. Even getting up in the night, if I turn it on when I go to the bathroom, by the time I have come back it has started to warm up.

I was sad to hear that Park Attwood clinic is closing to in patients. They don't have enough funding to keep it going. I still take my mistletoe as I am sure it benefits me.
It is my lovely dad's birthday on Thursday, I still miss him very much x
Kieran's is on Saturday an he will be the grand old age of 13!!!
He is having his first sleep over, his friend , Andrew, will be staying and Kieran is looking forward to that.
He is having a sponge Bob party, Damn thing irritates me but Kieran thinks he is funny.
I have got most of my Christmas presents, I can't write about what I have got the children incase they see this.



Sunday, 13 December 2009

Poor little Bean x


Kieran hasn't been well since Thursday, He has had a cough, cold and sickness, there is a bug going round at the moment and I am hoping I will not get it. I took him to the Drs on Saturday as I was worried it may be tonsillitis, thank goodness it wasn't as he has had it before and it wasn't pleasant for him.

Myself, I am feeling a lot better , had a little sicky feeling this morning but the tablets seem to be sorting them out. I have been belching uncontrollably and have had heart burn quite a lot since I have had the radio therapy. I have tablets for that too which seem to be working. Rich has nearly finished his temporary job, 1 more week to go.

I went out Friday evening, Kieran was with his dad, I was supposed to be going to a friends house, my friend, Chrissy was poorly and couldn't go. As I hadn't been to the new friends house before , I didn't know where she lived. Chrissy said it was 27a, there was no 27a when I got there. I called a taxi and went back home. I decided to pick Kieran up from his dad's rather than the morning.
The day before, when we went to see them crooked vultures, Dave Grohl is who I went to see, I got home and realised I had left my keys in the house. We drove to where Rich was working to get his keys. I have been a real numpty lately and I am blaming it on the radio therapy.

We are having new windows on Tuesday, the bathroom has been so cold as we can't close the windows, they are either seized up or locked and we have no keys.
We all absolutely love our new house. The christmas tree looks great, it looks perfect in the corner of the room. I found some lovely dragonfly decs for it, Stunning !!!!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Good night last night

My picture from my camera that has been graced with the image of Dave Grohl...!!!


I had my first sickness free day yesterday, I saw Dr D on Wednseday and told him how I felt and was sick due tio the radio therapy, He told me I should have called him to let him know. He has been wonderful, he called my GP while I was in the consultation room to ask for the sickness tablets to be ready for me to collect on my way home, Now that is Efficiency ![;'

Last night Siobhan, her boyfriend David, her ex Seddon and I went to see them crooked vultures, Dave Grohl of the Foo fighters who I love has got a super group together and their 6 date tour started in Plymouth. it was wonderful, we did get stuck in the moshe pit but were rescued by another of Siobhan's friends, I told her to thank him for saving my baby : )

Kieran stayed with his dad last night and will be there tonight as I have been invited out to a girls night.

Kieran also had a bowling stint with his class as an early birthday present, he will be 13 next week, where have the years gone!!
I have another 4 weeks off work, my oncologist has asked how things were at work, I told him they have been supportive and he has advised another 2 months off. I need to discuss with my boos the hours i will be doing. That will come at some point I am sure. I have nearly finished Christmas shopping and am looking forward to all the wrapping up. I bought home alone 1 and 2 and am hoping that Kieran will accommodate me by watching it with me as he hasn't seen it yet and Christmas isn't Christmas without a good Christmas movie.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

more yukky yuk!!!

It is 12:49 am, I went to bed and managed to get off to sleep only to be woken by pains in my side and an urge to be sick. I don't like it but if this is what it takes to reduce the size of my hilim lymph it should all be worth it. My kitten has decided to make himself comfortable on my lap just as I was deciding to try to go to bed again.
I had a nice surprise today, Dave Grohl was a drummer with Nirvana and now has his own band, the foo fighters, he is playing at the Pavilions in Plymouth on Thursday. Yukky or not, I am going to see him. He is one of my favourite singer songwriters.
Tomorrow I have an appointment with Dr D, I don't think I will find out much though.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Yuk today.

I have been feeling very sick today, the most it has been for a long time. I did go to lunch with Ann and Jack but didn't eat much and ended up going to the ladies and being ill. I managed to get myself home and fell alseep on the sofa for about an hour. Kieran has been home all day with his sore throat which has made a miraculous disappearance.
I am trying to force myself out to the Dr's surgey to get my pills and sick note but I am seriously thinking of doing it tomorrow.
I have already been ill in a bag in the car today and don't want to do that again, its horrible.
I hope Rich is quieter tonight as he was very noisy and doesn't consider anyone else when he is on the computer and has head phones in laughing and joking with his pals.

5:30am.... wide awake...thanks Rich!!!

Rich started a job last week at the local royal mail depot. His shift is 10pm till 5:30pm. Lately he has been coming home at 1:30am, 2:30am and today, 4:30am.
He was in the living room on his computer and woke Siobhan up by talking loudly and having a laugh with his mate. Siobhan shouted to him to be quiet which woke me up and now I can't get back to sleep.
I am really hoping that Rich still is working and not lying as he does not have a good track record with jobs. I so want him to prove me wrong and find out that he is leaving early due to no letters and extra staff. If the company know there is not enough work, why are the people going in in the first place?
I will get to the truth and hope that this time he isn't telling me fibberooneys!!!
Kieran isn't well and has a sore throat so may not be going to school today, I am just going to chill out today, I have to get my perscription from the Dr's for more thyroxin as my thyroid level has dropped, I also have to pick up a sick note for another 4 weeks off work.

I went out to lunch with my friends yesterday, Tina is off to Japan next week so Julie and I celebrated with her. Carolyn couldn't make it because of a lot of family issues.
I will be seeing her some time this week. I have to see Dr D tomorrow about the radio therpay treatment, not sure he will be able to tell me much at the moment.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Celebrating Steph, Go Green day.





Yesterday was a lovely day, Keran had the day off school as he wanted to come to Steph's celebration day at Holne Park house, Ashburton. The weather was a little damp but the spirits weren't. All who came were wearing green for Steph, it was her favourite colour, Even Sasha, Steph's dog joined in with the celebrations. We had a balloon release, 100 green balloons with messages for Steph. We then went to the river dart and lit some candles for her. It was a lovely day lots of smiles and happy memories, Ali coped very well although she is finding it very hard to deal with at the moment.
Kieran and I went to his school Christams fayre afterwards where I bought a mulled wine kit for £1 and a small wall Christmas tree for the conservatory for £1.


It has been a good day, Kieran wrote a lovely message to Steph, she will be missed very much by all who knew her. She will always give me strength to fight my illness, she was one amazing lady.... I raise a glass to you, Miss Chouette, you are and always will be that one in a millionth person who shows the world just how much you can squeeze out of life. Forever with me x x

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Abestos related illness debate in Westminster.

Chemoembolisation was debated in Westminster today. I am pasting a copy of the debate on this blog.

copy and paste link below to read article as it is larger on the blog and Siobhan isn't hear to make it small as I am a technophobe : )


http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2009-12-02a.138.0&s=mesothelioma#g144.1



Asbestos-related Illness (Plymouth)

Westminster Hall debates, 2 December 2009, 4:30 pm

Photo of Alison Seabeck

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport, Labour)

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this subject; sadly, it is of great importance to many of my constituents. In recent years, asbestos-related illness has been the subject of debates in the House, legal challenges, and ongoing demands from victims for understanding of their plight and for financial support to help them face the challenge of having been diagnosed with the illness. Let us not forget that Plymouth is a hot spot for asbestos-related disease-the third in the country.

During the summer, I was invited to attend a detailed briefing run by Bond Pearcesolicitors, a firm based in Plymouth, to discuss with health professionals and victims what more needs to be done. I was joined at that briefing by Mr. Streeter, who I am pleased to see here today. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend Linda Gilroy was not able to attend, although over many years she has been a fighter on behalf of the victims who live in her constituency.

Asbestos-related disease takes many forms. They include pleural plaques, which is scarring of the lung tissue; it is a real physical injury, visible and identifiable by X-ray. It is caused by exposure to asbestos over a long period, and it is avoidable. In most cases, it was caused by the negligence of the employer. Many people, including those in my constituency, suffer the condition through no fault of their own. The only people to gain from it are those in the insurance industry.

Given that the disease was for the previous 20 years clearly acknowledged as a compensatory condition caused by employers' negligence, the Law Lords ruling of 2007 remains an unexplainable and unjustifiable mystery to my constituents. Most employers and their insurers were aware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos. Such knowledge has been around since the end of the 19th century, but employers still chose to do nothing to protect their work forces. They seemed callously to rely on the fact that the latency period of such a disease could be anything from 10 to 20 or even 40 years.

The result is that many people are now diagnosed, and suffer constant fear and uncertainty about their future. I fully appreciate that the condition is said by some to be completely benign, and that it will lead to something more sinister in only 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. of diagnosed cases. However, there is a serious underlying issue. Pleural plaques is a clear indicator of long-term exposure to asbestos. Those diagnosed therefore have an increased risk of developing more serious asbestos-related diseases, resulting not only from pleural plaques but from the exposure to asbestos itself.

It is hard, therefore, to expect someone who has been diagnosed with pleural plaques not to be distressed and anxious about the fact. According to the excellent and well-supported GMB campaign, that anxiety has already led to one suicide. I was appalled to learn of the comments of Dr. Abernethy, of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers. She stated that pleural plaques were harmless and therefore a good thing. I assure the House-and Dr. Abernethy if she is watching or listening to this debate-that they are not. I invite Dr. Abernethy to speak to those of my constituents who have been diagnosed, and seek their reaction to her comments.

Concern has also been raised that some insurance lawyers would take advantage of the situation should compensation be allowed-that they would lure and encourage people to make a claim based in part on their anxiety. Is that not inconsistent? On one hand, the insurers have acknowledged the danger of asbestos and the anxiety caused, taking it so seriously that they say the matter should be pursued by them. On the other hand, they argue that anxiety is not serious enough to warrant compensation. If one listens to or reads stories of individuals, as I and other MPs have done, one quickly realises what such anxiety means to them and their families. They cannot escape it, because most of those diagnosed may well have seen former colleagues dying from mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis.

Anxiety also encroaches on other areas of people's lives. One of my constituents told me of a friend who was diagnosed with pleural plaques. When he applied for travel insurance, he provided information about his health and was charged a higher premium because of his condition. My constituent said it was a case of double standards, and I cannot think of a more appropriate term-other than financial opportunism. It is hypocritical of the insurance industry to suggest that there is nothing to worry about, and not to recognise pleural plaques as a disease, yet at the same time whacking up the insurance premium if they know that someone is a victim.

I will move on to mesothelioma. It is estimated that between 2006 and 2020, 30,000 people in the UK will die from mesothelioma, and that 90,000 will have died by 2050. The number of deaths is expected to peak in the next five to 10 years, although a whole new tranche of people are currently being diagnosed with the illness-people like my constituent, Debbie Brewer, a young woman who contracted the disease from her dockyard worker father. She is only 50 and a mother of three, and she believes that there is a significant number of young people who, like her, had contact with someone working with asbestos and will contract the disease, and who are currently not included in official estimates.

Debbie is a very brave woman who is fighting for a trial of a specialised treatment called chemoembolism, which appears to be holding back the disease significantly in her case. The treatment is not currently available in the UK, so she has to travel to Germany and pay for it privately. I would hate to describe Debbie as fortunate, but she was able to agree a settlement, and a payout from her father's employer, theMinistry of Defence, which is paying for the treatment. Although it does not fall within the Minister's remit, I hope that she will pass that concern on to her colleagues in the Department of Health.

Photo of Linda Gilroy

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton, Labour)

I have been listening carefully to the powerful case my hon. Friend is making, particularly the human stories. I am not sure whether her constituent, Debbie Brewer, knows the daughter of Roger Lowe, who has set up a campaign in memory of her father. It goes from one generation to another, and it is as much about the angst caused for the families as it is about the victims themselves when they are diagnosed with pleural plaques.

Photo of Alison Seabeck

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport, Labour)

I am that pleased that my hon. Friend is in the Chamber today and thank her for her comments and for highlighting the campaign being run by her constituent.

Another issue raised at the Bond Pearce seminar was funding for Macmillan nurses and the need to ensure that it continues. They are undoubtedly providing some fantastic support for my constituents and, I am sure, for others across the country.

Although much has been achieved by the Government with the introduction of the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008, more needs to be done. We need to speed up the system for those who have been diagnosed to ensure that they or their solicitors do not have to spend valuable time trying to trace their employers and insurers. One of the solutions could be the establishment of an employers' liability insurance bureau. Many people, as the Minister will know, cannot trace their former employers because they have gone out of business. If the firm had no insurance in place at the time, or if the insurance cannot be traced, the victim cannot make a civil claim against anyone for compensation. If a bureau was set up, it could act as a fund of last resort, paying out claims in cases where no defendant or insurer can be found.

My hon. Friend Mr. Dismore introduced a private Member's Bill in the last Session that would have addressed that issue, but like many good pieces of private Members' legislation, it foundered, although only after completing its passage through theHouse of Commons. An identical Bill has been introduced by Baroness Quin in the other place, and I can only hope that it will receive Government support and, with a fair wind, reach the statute book before a general election is called. My hon. Friend's Bill proposed a fund that could be paid for by insurers, rather than the taxpayer, using a similar model to that used by the Motor Insurance Bureau, which pays victims of uninsured drivers. He had extensive discussions with the Ministry of Justice and there was a good measure of support for his proposals.

Photo of Linda Gilroy

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton, Labour)

I know that my hon. Friend has expressed a hope that the Bill will be taken to a successful conclusion in the House of Lords, but will she urge everybody to continue to put pressure on the Government to support it? We have been here before on several occasions-we are just so close.

Photo of Alison Seabeck

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport, Labour)

My hon. Friend, with her wealth of experience of this place, knows just how difficult it has been to make progress, but I am sure the Ministerhas been listening to her comments.

Bond Pearce in Plymouth deals with many people who currently can make no claim in this country, and they often have to rely on payments via a convoluted route from the United States trust, which will pay out. Not everyone can benefit through that route, and we really need a scheme that will apply in the UK. I would be grateful if the Minister could let us have her views of the proposal being brought forward in the Lords, because it cannot be right that the Government should pay lump sums to sufferers, funded by the public purse, because insurers do not want to pay compensation. Insurers have to be liable and pay up. That is why they receive their premiums in the first place. I therefore welcome the commitment of the Justice Secretary and the Minister-which I hope will be repeated today-that consideration will be given to reviewing the current process of tracing insurance records.

I also support the Government's idea that the UK should be made a global leader in research on asbestos-related diseases. However, that must be speeded up. We have also been waiting rather too long for a decision from the Government about compensation. I urge the Minister to make the Government's intentions clear sooner rather than later, because for some of my constituents it could be too late.

4:40 pm
Photo of Gary Streeter

Gary Streeter (South West Devon, Conservative)

I support the arguments put forward by Alison Seabeck. We both attended the conference in the summer, and we work closely together in Plymouth, in a cross-party way. I do not want to repeat her arguments, but I want to support them and her description of the difficulty in obtaining justice for sufferers of asbestos-related diseases.

Rather than repeating the arguments that she put more eloquently than I ever could, I want to add one further point, which draws partly on my background as a lawyer-the application to the issue of the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987, on which I know the Minister is something of an expert. That Act, which prevents Crown personnel from suing the Crown in relation to matters prior to the date in question, effectively means that ex-service personnel can claim civil damages from the Ministry of Defence for asbestos-related illnesses, or any other injury, only if the exposure occurred after 1987. In cases involving asbestos, exposure will usually have occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, before the world woke up fully to the perils of asbestos. The people in question therefore cannot make a civil claim for compensation against the Ministry of Defence.

That situation is in contrast to what applies to civilians, who can make a civil claim against the Ministry of Defence irrespective of when the exposure occurred. The situation is very unjust for ex-forces members, of whom there are of course many in Plymouth. In the dockyard and the naval base, civilians and service people, men and women, have for many generations worked side by side. They have done almost the same jobs, some in uniform and some as civilians. Is it not grossly unfair that, of two people doing the same job during the 1970s, both of whom contracted a serious lung disease, one would have the right to compensation from the Ministry of Defence, but the other would not? I see officials looking quizzically at me. If the Minister can say that I am wrong in what I am saying, we shall be jubilant and excited, and many legal actions will follow.

We hear much about the postcode lottery, but the situation I am describing is a pay-as-you-earn lottery, and the Government must surely be concerned about it.

Photo of Linda Gilroy

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton, Labour)

I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised that aspect of the issue, and am grateful to him. He has referred to the cross-party basis on which this matter has for many years been pursued. The point that seems to be made in this context is that the pensions of service personnel somehow rule out their making a claim. It does not add up or make sense.

Photo of Gary Streeter

Gary Streeter (South West Devon, Conservative)

I agree on that point. I have considered what reasons there may be for people being treated differently, and I cannot think that any such reasons would prevail for people who have acquired their injuries during a period of work in a domestic situation at home as opposed to in the trenches overseas.

Lawyers in Plymouth deal with many victims of asbestos-related problems each year, but instead of obtaining justice from the Ministry of Defence they must resort to relying on payments from United States trusts set up by the companies that manufactured many of the asbestos products, which saw their liability and put money aside. People in the UK can draw down on that, but it is nothing like the amount of compensation to be obtained from suing the Ministry of Defence, as many civilians can. The idea of compensation is to put someone back in the place they would have been in had they not fallen ill or been injured. At the moment that does not happen to ex-servicemen who contract the crippling diseases in question. Many of them must rely on state benefits or a war or disability pension, instead of proper compensation that would help them to live the lives they would have lived had they not been contaminated, through no fault of their own.

I recognise that Governments of both colours have hidden behind the 1987 Act-and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport is right to say that this issue has continued for a long time under Labour and Conservative Governments. There may be reasons of public policy for that, which the Minister may want to set out. However, I ask him to review the application of the Act in relation to claims of this kind, where there is a real injustice. I am sure it is not the Government's strategy to delay matters until time takes its toll and people go the way of all flesh. I am sure that is not the Government's thinking, but of course there is an element of urgency because many of the sufferers are of a certain age and we want them to receive compensation in due time. I hope the Minister can make a helpful response.

4:45 pm
Photo of Claire Ward

Claire Ward (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Watford, Labour)

I congratulate my hon. Friend Alison Seabeck on securing this important debate. The fact that this is the fifth debate that we have had on pleural plaques demonstrates the importance of the issue, not just to hon. Members across the political parties but, more importantly, to their constituents and those whose lives are impacted by this state of affairs. We recognise that pleural plaques are a major issue for many people, particularly those who have worked in traditional manufacturing industries where exposure to asbestos was an all too common danger.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, our consultation on pleural plaques closed at the beginning of October last year. I understand hon. Members' concerns about the time that it has taken to reach conclusions in the light of the consultation. The decision by the House of Lords raised extremely complex and difficult issues that have required careful consideration within Government. It has also been important to look beyond the issue of pleural plaques to consider how people who have been exposed to asbestos can be supported more widely. We have made it clear throughout that it is important to ensure that any decisions taken are reached on the basis of the best available medical evidence on the nature of pleural plaques. For that reason, we have commissioned and published reviews of the medical evidence carried out on behalf of the chief medical officer for England and Wales and by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council to help to inform consideration of the issue. The reports indicate that consensus appears to exist on a range of key points relating to the medical nature of pleural plaques.

However, in response to representations from asbestos campaigners and a request by my hon. Friend Mr. Clapham, the Secretary of State for Justice undertook to facilitate a final meeting between key medical experts in the field to consider the medical reports together with new evidence that has emerged since the reports were published. That was to make sure that any areas of disagreement over the evidence and conclusions in the reports could be identified and fully considered. The meeting took place on 15 October and was extremely helpful and informative. The Government are giving careful consideration to the outcome of the discussion and the views expressed before publishing their response on pleural plaques.

The Government have been consistent in their commitment to give those suffering from mesothelioma and other serious asbestos-related diseases the help and support that they deserve. With that in mind, the Secretary of State for Justice confirmed that the Government are actively considering measures to make the UK a global leader in research for the alleviation, prevention and cure of asbestos-related diseases, and also to help speed up compensation claims for those who develop serious asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma. That includes examination of the process for tracking and tracing employment and insurance records, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport mentioned, as well as looking into the support given to individuals who are unable to trace such records. We fully accept that the current arrangements for tracing employers' liability and insurance policies are not satisfactory. Too many individuals are not able to access the compensation that they deserve. The situation is not acceptable and we are determined to do more. We are looking seriously at options such as setting up a mandatory tracing database and whether we might establish an employers' liability insurance bureau as a fund of last resort, as recommended by several hon. Members. Further details of the Government's plans on these extremely important issues will be announced shortly.

Provisions in the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 were brought into effect on 1 October last year by colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions. They provide up-front financial support to mesothelioma sufferers who were previously not eligible for help from the Government, including those, such as the constituent of my hon. Friend, who were exposed to asbestos as the result of contact with a relative. Someone's exposure could have taken place, for example, by washing the work clothes of their father or husband. Where sufferers have not been able to make a claim during their lifetime, a payment under the scheme can be made to their dependents.

The provisions demonstrate the Government's commitment to help people who suffer from the effects of this terrible disease, which includes many people in my hon. Friend's constituency. Mr. Streeter and my hon. Friend Linda Gilroy have raised this issue, not just on this occasion, but on many occasions, with Government Ministers. The latest available analysis by local and unitary area of mesotheliomadeaths in Britain shows that there were 373 male mesothelioma deaths in Plymouth during the 25-year period from 1981 to 2005, which is more than three times the average death rate for the whole of Britain. Based on that analysis, Plymouth has the third highest rate in Britain. Most of the areas with the highest mortality rates in the analysis are associated with the shipbuilding industry, in which asbestos was widely used for insulation in the past. Female mesothelioma deaths in Plymouth over the period were in line with expected numbers based on the average rate for Great Britain.

We have continued to raise awareness of the risks of asbestos through the Health and Safety Executive's campaign, "Asbestos the Hidden Killer", which was relaunched on 2 November 2009. It aims to raise awareness among tradesmen, pointing out that they are more at risk than they think from asbestos and prompting them to find out more about asbestos and the precautions they should take. National press and radio adverts will run for four weeks, supported by public relations activity. Partner organisations, including the TUC, unions, trade associations, trade stores and charities have distributed about half a million campaign packs to trade and maintenance workers. It is extremely important that we raise awareness among a group who, proportionally, face a much higher risk than the greater population.

Photo of Alison Seabeck

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport, Labour)

A number of people who work where asbestos is likely to be in the vicinity may well be people who have come across from Europe and whose first language might not be English. What is the Minister doing to ensure that the trade unions and others are putting out information in other languages?

Photo of Claire Ward

Claire Ward (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Watford, Labour)

My hon. Friend raises a very interesting point. From my own experience-my family are very engaged in the building and construction trades and my father established an institute for asbestos management-I am acutely aware of the impact that it can have on other construction trades. In this day and age, when we have much greater European engagement, she is right to raise that point. I will ensure that my colleagues-not in the Ministry of Justice, but in the business department of the Department for Work and Pensions, which is responsible for health and safety-write to her to make sure that she has copies of the information packs and any details about what else we are doing to promote awareness across the language barrier.

In addition to considering the needs of people who have difficulties with the language, we must look at the nature of the construction industry. Many people are sole traders and perhaps do not have access to trade union support or to much greater levels of activity through larger organisations. The Health and Safety Executive has sent a direct mail of 50,000 packs to the harder-to-reach micro-firms and sole traders.

My hon. Friend raised the issue of chemoembolism treatment for mesothelioma. I express my sympathy to her constituent, Debbie Brewer, who is suffering from this terrible condition. Chemoembolisation is available for the treatment of liver cancer, but the risks and benefits of using it to treat patients with mesothelioma are not yet known. We are not aware of any trials of chemoembolisation for patients withmesothelioma under way in the UK, which is no doubt why her constituent sought treatment abroad. It is for clinicians, using their expert judgment, to decide on the most effective treatment for patients, based on their individual circumstances. Primary care trusts are responsible for commissioning services to meet the health care needs of their local populations, so it is for them to decide whether to fund any proposed treatment, taking into account any available evidence of its effectiveness. I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to ensure that any information about the success of the treatment for her constituent is passed back to local commissioning services.

My hon. Friend also referred to the private Member's Bill sponsored by our hon. Friend Mr. Dismore. The Bill passed through the Commons in the previous parliamentary Session, but did not manage to complete its stages in the Lords before the end of the Session. However, the Government note that the Bill has been reintroduced in the House of Lords by Baroness Quin of Gateshead in the County of Tyne and Wear. The Bill has to be considered in the wider context. It represents one possible approach to the issue of pleural plaques, but there may be a number of other appropriate approaches to the condition and to the wider issues arising from asbestos-related diseases. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to give a firm indication today of the Government's position on the Bill, but we will continue to monitor its progress with interest.

I assure hon. Members that we remain firmly committed to helping people who have suffered as a result of exposure to asbestos, and that our considerations are taking place with that commitment in mind. The hon. Member for South-West Devon raised the issue of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 and the distinction between those who have been in the services and civilians. I thank him for raising an interesting point. I cannot comment on it, but I will make sure that it is passed to my colleagues in theMinistry of Defence, and I would expect them to write to him with further relevant information.

I apologise again to hon. Members for the time that it is taking to deal with the difficult and complex issues. I am well aware, as indeed all my colleagues are, that the time taken in such circumstances is not simply an administrative process, but has an impact on the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport and of other hon. Members. I hope that we will be in a position to publish the Government's response, setting out the way forward, as soon as possible.