North-East MPs from the three main parties have defended ministers' rights to keep private whether their children have had the controversial MMR vaccine.

This is despite one Labour backbencher saying Ministers should show leadership on the issue

It follows the Prime Minister and Health Secretary Alan Milburn's refusal to comment on the choice they had made for their own children.

Minsters have backed an official Department of Health measles, mumps and rubella vaccination campaign. They rejected claims by researchers that MMR is linked to autism.

While refusing to reveal directly whether his children had the vaccine, Mr Blair said recently he was appalled that some people believed the Government would recommend it if there were well founded health fears.

Vera Baird, Labour MP for Redcar said: "Mr Blair is absolutely right to keep his children as far as possible completely separate from his public life - and that is what I would do with my children."

Ashok Kumar, Labour MP for South Middlebrough and East Cleveland, said: "If it were my children, I would happily put it in the public domain."

Anne McIntosh, Tory MP for Vale of York, said she did not have children but believed the MMR issue should be a matter of personal choice.

Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham said: "The same people who criticise the Prime Minister for his present stance, would criticise him if he used his own child for a publicity stunt on the MMR vaccine - frankly he can't win."

Phil Willis, Lib-Dem MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: "My children have had the MMR, but I don't think it is something we should have to disclose."

However, Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson said ministers should say whether their children had received the vaccine. He said there was a "difficult dividing line" and some things shoud be kept private - but, on this occasion, people looked to ministers on such issues.