Jeremy Hunt: I'll be guided by science

Jeremy Hunt
Image caption Jeremy Hunt voted for a reduced time limit for abortions

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised to follow scientific advice in the decisions he makes.

Mr Hunt was only appointed last month, but has already sparked controversy by saying he favours halving the abortion time limit to 12 weeks.

He is also known to be a supporter of homeopathy, despite many experts doubting its effectiveness.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme his decisions would be "evidence-based".

But he declined to say whether he believed there was any scientific evidence to support his personal opinions.

'Positive contribution'

In reference to his comments to The Times newspaper when he said 12 weeks was the "right point" at which to limit abortions, he 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."

The 24 week limit applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except in exceptional medical circumstances, such as when the mother's health is at risk.

There were nearly 190,000 abortions for women in England and Wales last year, the vast majority of which - 91% - were carried out in under 13 weeks.

In 2007, Mr Hunt signed a parliamentary early-day motion praising the "positive contribution" of homeopathic hospitals in the NHS.

This was 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."

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