Minister ‘laughed at faux pas not cancer’

HUNTINGDON MP and Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has denied not taking seriously the usually-fatal asbestos-related disease mesothelioma, after being filmed laughing when it was being discussed during a House of Commons debate.

Mr Djanogly was steering the Legal Aid Bill through its latest Commons stages when the incident happened as the House considered amendments proposed by the House of Lords, including that mesothelioma cases should be regarded as special cases in relation to lawyers’ costs.

The MP said he had been laughing not at that but at Labour Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter’s mixing up his briefing notes and confusing legal aid with metal theft.

Hansard records the Labour frontbencher as saying: “I shall say a brief word about the Lords amendment on metal theft as this is the only opportunity to do so,” before he was interrupted by other MPs.

That prompted Mr Djanogly’s mirth and a subsequent invitation from the Speaker to respond to a complaint about his conduct from another Labour MP, Helen Jones, which he declined.

Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post: “Any accusation that in any way I was speaking ill of the disease or those unfortunate people who suffer from it is something I reject outright. Anybody who has any doubt whatever should read my speech in which I said we were putting forward sensible ways of dealing with this long-standing problem.

“The debate was not about help getting to mesothelioma sufferers. It was about what we pay lawyers.”