James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:06 pm on 20th October 2021.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset 1:06 pm, 20th October 2021

It bears repeating that James was a charming, kind, funny and intelligent man, devoted to his constituency, his country and, above all, his family. He was joy to work with, collegiate and considerate, as the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. Those of us who had the pleasure of travelling abroad with him will also know that, occasionally, as we would have said in Scotland, some drink might have been taken. In an era when we have come to question the conduct of some in our political life, he was courteous and good-humoured to a fault, at the Dispatch Box and beyond. I hope it is not going too far to say that James was self-effacing, humble and without ego, almost to the point that one might wonder what he was doing in this place to begin with.

James wanted something good to come from the illness that he suffered and with which he coped with such dignity and courage. There is an urgent need for lung cancer screening in this country to improve long-term survival and save lives. As the Prime Minister said, James was the first to hold a debate on the topic in the House of Commons, after returning to work following his initial diagnosis and treatment. Cathy and the rest of the family wanted to support a cause that he cared so passionately about. As my right hon. and learned Friend Robert Buckland has said, the Roy Castle Lung Foundation, of which, I am pleased to say, my wife is the medical director, has benefited by more than £50,000 because of the work that James did.

As we have seen with James, lung cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, young and old, male and female, smoker and non-smoker. Lung cancer is the UK’s most common cause of cancer. It is responsible for more than a fifth of all male and female cancer deaths. Approximately 48,000 people are diagnosed in the UK every year. When James passed away, on Thursday 7 October, another 95 people will have died on the same day of the same disease. It is sobering to think that one person dies of lung cancer every 15 minutes. James wanted me to give the message that less than a fifth of people with lung cancer are currently diagnosed at stage 1, and two thirds are not diagnosed until they reach stage 3 or stage 4. Symptoms are vague and can often be missed. We therefore need to find a way to get ahead of the disease that claimed James’ life all too early. We need a lung cancer screening programme, and I urge the Government to treat this with priority in our health policy. We cannot bring James back, but we can ensure that others live because of his legacy.