Jeremy Hunt pledged today that he will follow scientific advice in his decisions as health secretary.
Mr Hunt’s appointment to the health brief in last month’s reshuffle sparked controversy because of his previous support for homeopathy and for a 12-week time limit for abortions.
Today, he declined to say whether he believed there was any scientific evidence to support his personal opinions on these issues.
But he said voters should be assured that, as health secretary, he would implement the will of Parliament rather than his own opinions and would be guided by scientific advice.
Controversy over abortion time limits was reignited earlier this month by an interview which Mr Hunt recently gave to The Times, in which he said that he felt 12 weeks after conception was “the right point” for the limit on abortion, which currently stands at 24 weeks.
Challenged over his comments on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Hunt said: “I was simply answering a question as to why I voted in the way I did in a free vote in 2008. I made it clear when I said that that it was a free vote, this is not government policy to change the limit, and, as health secretary, my responsibility is to implement the democratic will of Parliament.
“Parliament voted in 2008 not to change the limit on abortions and that is the policy I will implement.”
Mr Hunt declined to say whether his support for the 12-week limit was based on scientific evidence, but added: “It wasn’t for a religious reason.”
In 2007, Mr Hunt signed a parliamentary early-day motion praising the “positive contribution” of homeopathic hospitals in the NHS, despite repeated clinical trials which have found that homeopathic medicines - which contain heavily diluted traces of the substance causing the illness - are ineffective.
Asked whether he believes homeopathy works, Mr Hunt said: “I believe that my decisions as health secretary should be based on science and should be evidence-based and driven by evidence. I will follow the scientific advice.
“In everything I do I will follow the scientific advice. The important thing as health secretary is that I make decisions based on scientific advice.”
Challenged over his previous support for homeopathy, Mr Hunt said: “We have to have some humility about what we don’t know as well as what we do know, but I will follow that scientific advice absolutely. That is my job as health secretary.”