The Week That Was: December 19 - 25, 1997

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IN spite of a painful terminal illness, she had bravely fought and won a landmark legal case and now the late June Hancock was to be memorialised with a charity fund in her name.

The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund was officially launched this week in 1997 at Elland Road, the home of her favourite football team.

Mrs Hancock had died in July, aged 61, and her family and friends were starting the fund to contribute to vital research into the disease being carried out at Leeds General Infirmary and also provide specialist nursing care for other sufferers.

June Hancock had fought for several years and eventually won her case, successfully establishing that the owners of the JW Roberts asbestos factory in Armley, Leeds were responsible for the asbestos contamination of the neighbourhood.

Her death from asbestos-related mesothelioma was one of a number of such deaths among people born and raised in the shadow of the factory. Since its inception the charity has raised more than £1.4m.

The government was under fresh pressure over its plans to reform the welfare state this week, as Parliamentary Labour Party chairman Clive Soley warned that needy young people could not be “left to sink or swim”.

Meanwhile, Social Security Secretary Harriet Harman failed to give a categorical assurance that there would be no cuts in benefits to the sick and disabled when she met a delegation of the Parliamentary All-Party Disablement Group.

At the weekly full Cabinet meeting, it was decided that the changes would go ahead, despite the previous week’s furore over the vote on cuts to lone parent benefits.

Writing in The New Statesman, Mr Soley said Labour’s ‘honeymoon period’ was now over and the issue had become “just like another Thatcherite cut”.

In a private candlelight ceremony held in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, Conservative leader and MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, William Jefferson Hague tied the knot with his fiancee Ffion Llywelyn Jenkins this week.

The service was held in English and Welsh to reflect the bride’s Welsh roots, and the 36-year-old groom sealed the union with his 29-year-old bride by pronouncing the Welsh marriage vow: “Yr wyfi i, William Hague, yn dy gymryd di, Ffion, yn wraig a mi.”

There were sure to be plenty of volunteers from the student body of Hull University to take part in a study being launched by psychologist Dr Geoff Lowe to further understanding of the connection between alcohol, laughter and health.

He was looking for 100 people, half of whom would drink controlled amounts of alcohol while watching a humorous video.

Those who drew the short straw would watch the same material but drink non-alcoholic beverages.

The mean spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge was said to have struck Bradford City Hall this week, when the council sent a bill for £1.73 for use of a kettle at a village’s festive lights switch-on.

Councillors in Denholme, near Bradford, had used the kitchen in the village Mechanics Institute to make hot drinks for around 50 local people who’d turned out in freezing winds for the event.

Hilary Mayes, the village’s deputy mayor, said: “It seems Scrooge is alive and well and living in Bradford. It’s all very sad.

“It must have cost more than £1.73 to produce (the bill) and process that amount.”

By Sheena Hastings