Child Health and Maternity

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 7th February 2002.

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Photo of Ms Julia Drown Ms Julia Drown Labour, South Swindon 4:00 pm, 7th February 2002

I welcome this debate and the action that the Government are taking on maternity and children's services, particularly the emphasis on inequalities. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is committed to that.

I shall start by responding to the comments of the Opposition spokesperson, Tim Loughton. The policy that the Opposition have dreamed up over the past week is outrageous and a serious matter, because of the potential implications—I need hardly say "potential"—for children.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that a lack of confidence has been fuelled by irresponsible media stories, but the Opposition do not help by jumping on the bandwagon and trying to extract political advantage from it. That seems to be the only explanation for the Opposition's policy, because all the Front-Bench spokespersons, including the hon. Gentleman today, have clearly said that MMR is the best option. To suggest otherwise merely undermines confidence and fuels more unjustified speculation.

At a push, the Opposition could say that we may need to consider the issue if they talked about particular constituents who had read all the evidence, had received counselling and had come to particular decisions, but I would feel uncomfortable even with that. Having considered all the evidence, every major college, doctors, paediatricians, health visitors and all such bodies have clearly said that the best option is to stick with MMR.

The Opposition should be backing the Government. This issue should not be a political football because the health of thousands of children is at risk, and the Opposition have not answered my question. They have not given us their recommended timetable for when children should have the measles vaccination and those for rubella and mumps. Without that timetable, we do not know which ones they think people should be exposed to first. The Opposition's policy is risky. I hope that they will review it and return to the position that they held a while ago, which was to do the sensible thing by using the evidence that clearly exists and backing the Government's advice on MMR. There seems to be no other option if we are to protect children.