Jeremy Corbyn condemned for signing motion which called for probe into potential links between MMR vaccine and autism

Harry Yorke

Jeremy Corbyn has been condemned by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock after it emerged that he once signed a motion which raised the possibility of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. 

The Labour leader and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, both signed a motion laid in Parliament in June 1999, entitled “Measles vaccine and autism”.

The motion called on the late Frank Dobson, the then health secretary, to “investigate the possibility of a link” between the “measles, mumps and rubella vaccines and autism and inflammatory bowel conditions”. 

It also called for a “full research programme” to be established into the safety of the vaccines, and for the Government to “monitor a register of autistic children for such purposes”. 

It was published several months after ex-physician Andrew Wakefield published a paper with 12 colleagues in the medical journal The Lancet, which suggested that the vaccines could be linked to developing autism.

Mr Wakefield, who was later discredited and struck off by the General Medical Council in 2010 for serious professional misconduct, was blamed for fueling anxiety among parents over vaccinations.

On Wednesday Mr Hancock told The Daily Telegraph: “The science is crystal clear: vaccines are safe and effective, and save countless lives. Anyone who suggests otherwise is recklessly endangering the lives of children. 

“Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell should hang their heads in shame.” 

Labour was approached for comment. 

The row came after Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, accused the Government of “complacency” over vaccination rates. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Ashworth said it was a “shameful indictment” of Boris Johnson’s government that the UK had lost its measles free status. 

Later, in a speech in central London, he added: “Measles is a horrible, life threatening disease and yet vaccination rates have fallen now five years in a row.

"This isn’t simply about anti vaxx propaganda on social media - as Mr Hancock claims - but the toxic combination of the Tory Health and Social Care Act reorganisation, the squeeze on primary care and cuts to public health services.”