Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gummer and Asbestos

I might not agree with Ben Gummer on many things but when I have met him on the campaign trail or at events in Ipswich he has always been courteous. From talking to other Ipswich residents who have had dealings with our MP, they also speak highly of his ability to listen and in cases sympathise with the plight of many residents.

But from what I have heard this week, he may have a different side to him when speaking to people who can't vote for him.

I heard a number of days ago that whilst attending the committee looking into changing the way we get Legal Aid, Ben decided to spend the time in the meeting reading the 'Economist' rather than listen to the debate. Not the behaviour you would expect of an MP, and I for one was surprised that Mr Gummer was acting in that manner. But a report about the same committee this week seems to show that Mr Gummer is making a habit of acting like a respectable MP in Ipswich but when in Westminster acting like a rowdy Public School boy.

The article below is from this weeks, 'Morning Star':

A support group for asbestosis sufferers has condemned the behaviour of two Tory MPs during a committee debate on legal aid.

The group, which attended a hearing of the public bill committee this week to hear a debate on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Prosecution of Offenders Bill, said that Conservative MPs Ben Wallace and Ben Gummer had behaved like "rowdy public schoolboys" and displayed "contempt" for working people.

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum said it was shocked at the behaviour of the two MPs when Kate Green MP was speaking about the effect of the Bill on asbestos victims dying from mesothelioma, citing the suffering of her own constituents.

Under the proposed legislation those who have suffered work-related illness or injury and seek compensation would be responsible for success fees which are to be capped at 25 per cent of damages.

Campaigners argue that, without the alternative of legal aid, claimants are returned to a worse position than prior to 2000 when legal aid for such cases was scrapped.

The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum said its research suggests that many mesothelioma sufferers, defeated by illness, will never make a claim because of the additional stress and the financial risk they will face.

Jim Sheridan MP, chairman of the public bill committee, was apparently forced to rebuke Mr Wallace and Mr Gummer for disrupting the proceedings.

Mr Sheridan is minuted as saying that conversations between the two Tory MPs were "becoming longer and louder" and that they were "showing great discourtesy to the rest of the committee."

Forum chairman Tony Whitston said: "These MPs not only showed discourtesy to the committee, they showed utter lack of concern for asbestos victims whose plight deserved a proper and respectful hearing in the committee.

"These Conservative MPs from privileged backgrounds, behaving like rowdy public schoolboys, showed contempt for hard-working men who helped build industry in this country and who now face a death sentence as a result of their labour.

"Their disregard for the debate on important issues on the committee they serve shows that they would see this Bill driven through despite the many compelling arguments for change.

"If this is their party's position then working-class victims of the worst occupational disease can forget justice."

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