Public Health — 24 Jan 2001

I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern the failures of Her Majesty's Government's public health policy, particularly relating to immunisation and communicable diseases; and calls on the Government to consider urgent measures to reduce the risks to public safety and to take urgent action to allay public concerns.

During our time in our relative positions, we will no doubt have a large number of issues where we will profoundly disagree.

I hope, however, that in other areas, notably public health policy, we will be able to work together for the common good. One of these areas must be childhood immunisation and I know that you share my concerns about the low levels of MMR immunisation and the consequent risk of a measles epidemic. There has been a great deal of scientifically dubious information put into the public domain creating scare stories recently. The only possible outcome of this is a greater risk to all children of a measles outbreak which, as you know, can cause severe damage even in healthy populations like those in the UK.

On behalf of the Opposition, I can assure you that we would be only too happy to undertake any joint initiative which shows that politicians can put party political differences behind them when important principles of public health are at stake.

I hope you will accept this offer in the spirit in which it is offered.

Routine immunisation of all school children at age 10-14 was suspended in September 1999 due to severe manufacturing problems encountered by the sole United Kingdom licensed source, Celltech Medeva.

The Department is doing all it can to secure a robust supply of UK licensed and batch released BCG vaccine, and will announce as soon as possible when the routine schools programme can resume. All those who missed their BCG vaccination due to the suspension of the programme will be recalled as part of a catch up programme.--[ Official Report , 9 January 2001; Vol. 360, c. 539W.]

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"condemns the widening health inequalities between 1979 and 1997 and the failure of Conservative governments to acknowledge health inequality or address the growing health gap between rich and poor; and supports initiatives to improve public health and tackle health inequalities, including new vaccination programmes for influenza and Meningitis C, the allocation of an extra £450 million to improve cancer and coronary heart disease services in England, the extension of the breast screening programme to women aged between 65 and 70, the strategy to reduce teenage pregnancies, the largest-ever investment in smoking cessation services and the proposed ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship."

MMR is a very effective vaccine with an excellent safety record. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation and used in over 30 countries around the world. We believe that the support for the MMR vaccine among health professionals remains exceptionally high--despite recent claims to the contrary.

All of the major health organisations in the UK support the MMR programme. Prior to the introduction of MMR there were thousands of cases of measles, mumps and rubella--and dozens of children died. This need not happen again. MMR is scientifically proven to be the safest and most effective way to protect children from disease.

The new report by Dr. Wakefield does not present any evidence to change this view. There is a real concern about his advice that the vaccines should be given separately, since children would be left unnecessarily unprotected from these potentially serious diseases. We strongly recommend that children are protected with MMR and not left at risk.

The vast majority of parents do get their children vaccinated but some parents remain concerned. We want to listen to these concerns and to work with parents and health professionals to provide reassurance and the best possible advice.

WHO strongly endorses the use of MMR vaccine on the grounds of its convincing record of safety and efficacy.

The combination vaccine is recommended rather than monovalent presentation when available and the disease burden justifies its use.

There has been no new scientific evidence that would suggest impaired safety of MMR. On the contrary, all results from vaccine trials published reaffirm the high safety and efficacy of MMR vaccine.

Poverty, poverty, poverty--la, la, la . . . it is just boring for Conservative Members.--[ Official Report , 22 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 636.]

clearly demonstrated a strong link between low birth rate and the low socio-economic group of the mother.

Making a difference--the NHS . . . is changing for the better.

The UK Health Departments have been working on producing publicity material for parents and their medical advisers . . . The aim is to provide a factual briefing on the issues to enable parents to make an informed choice about the MMR vaccine in consultation with their health professional.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 317.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 135 (+2 tell)085.6%
Independent1 0050.0%
Lab287 (+2 tell) 0069.3%
LDem27 0057.4%
PC1 0025.0%
SNP1 0016.7%
Total:317 135071.7%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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