Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said there is a “very strong argument” for making it compulsory for school children to be vaccinated.

The Cabinet minister said he had received legal advice on the issue in recent days and was looking at it after becoming concerned about falling vaccination rates.

Last month it was revealed there are 5,000 children in the south west who have not received all of there MMR vaccinations.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Mr Hancock said social media companies had “a lot to answer for” for spreading anti-vaccine views.

Mr Hancock said: “We need a massive drive to get these vaccination rates back up.

“I said before that we should be open minded, and frankly, what I’d say is that when we – the state – provide services to people, then it’s a two-way street, you have got to take your responsibilities too.

“So I think there is a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccinations for children when they go to school because otherwise they are putting other children at risk.

“Now, you have got to make sure the system would work, because some children can’t be vaccinated and some may hold very strong religious convictions that you would want to take into account.

“But, frankly, the proportion of people in either of those two categories is tiny compared to the 7 per cent or 8 per cent now who don’t get vaccinated.

“I think there is a very strong argument for moving to compulsory vaccination. And I think that the public would back us.

“I am very worried about falling rates of vaccinations, especially measles. For measles the falling vaccination rates are a serious problem.

“And it’s unbelievable, I think, that Britain has lost its measles-free status, and it should be a real wake-up call.

“The worst thing is that if you don’t vaccinate your child and you can, then the person you are putting at risk is not only your own child, but it’s also the child who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – maybe they have got cancer so their immune system is too weak, and they are losing what’s called ‘the herd immunity’ that you get from when over 95 per cent of people are vaccinated.”