MMR benefit cut ‘not Labour policy’
Monday 23rd September 2013, 4:20PM BST.
Withdrawing child benefit from parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated with an MMR jab is an “interesting idea” but is not Labour policy, the party’s policy chief Jon Cruddas has said.
Press reports suggested that the punitive plan against parents who did not have their children vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella may become part of Labour’s 2015 election manifesto which Mr Cruddas is drawing up.
But after shadow chancellor Ed Balls insisted in a TV interview that the party had “no plans” to bring in the measure, Mr Cruddas described the idea as interesting, but said it was not part of Labour’s policy review.
He said: “There are loads of ideas that are mentioned, it was put to me and I said well that’s quite an interesting idea but it’s not part of our policy.”
Asked whether the idea should ever have been aired in public and Mr Balls forced to deny it was policy on TV, Mr Cruddas said: “I don’t know, I didn’t see it. My job is the policy review in the party and this isn’t part of it so I can’t say anything more.”
Mr Balls said he was not aware of any discussions taking place, and insisted Labour would never make benefits conditional on a child’s record of immunisations.
The shadow chancellor told ITV1′s Daybreak: “There is no question of a Labour government ever taking child benefit away or punishing parents for choices they make on vaccinations.
“I don’t know where that came from. It is not our policy. It is on the front of the newspapers but it is not true.
“There are no plans that I know of, or anyone knows of, to consider that. We would never say child benefit is conditional on taking a jab.”
Unlike Labour’s former prime minister Tony Blair, who famously refused to say whether he had given his children the MMR jab, Mr Balls had no qualms about confirming that he and wife Yvette Cooper – the shadow home secretary – have immunised their three children.
“We gave our children the MMR jab because it is the best way to keep your children safe,” said the shadow chancellor. “That is what the best medical advice is, but parents should choose that.”