Jeremy Hunt

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Jeremy Hunt is a Conservative politician who is the Secretary of State for Health and MP for South West Surrey. He was first elected to Parliament at the May 2005 general election.

Contents

Health

Alternative Medicine

Note: Please read this section to the end as it shows an evolving picture of Mr Hunt's views on homeopathy.

In 2007 Jeremy Hunt signed Early Day Motion 1240[1], supporting homeopathic hospitals. Sean Ellis (a constituent) wrote to him about this. The text of his letter and Mr Hunt's rather non-committal reply can be found on Mr Ellis's website[2]. From Mr Hunt's reply:

"I understand that it is your view that homeopathy is not effective, and therefore that people should not be encouraged to use it as a treatment. However I am afraid that I have to disagree with you on this issue. Homeopathic care is enormously valued by thousands of people and in an NHS that the Government repeatedly tells us is "patient-led" it ought to be available where a doctor and patient believe that a homeopathic treatment may be of benefit to the patient."

In October 2012, shortly after being appointed Health Secretary, Mr Hunt was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he believed homeopathy works. Instead of answering the question directly he responded:

"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."[3]

In November 2012 he was asked a parliamentary question by David Tredinnick on complementary medicine, mentioning herbal medicine, acupuncture and particularly stressing homeopathy. Mr Hunt replied without mentioning homeopathy at all, but apparently accepting the use of acupuncture:

"There are parts of the country where acupuncture is available on the NHS. This will be clinically led. It needs to be driven by the science, but where there is evidence, and where local doctors think that it would be the best clinical outcome for their patients, that is what they are able to do."[4]

In April 2013, in the context of a measles outbreak in south Wales, concern over MMR vaccination uptake throughout the UK, and reports of homeopaths offering "homeopathic vaccines" for measles, Mr Hunt was asked in Parliament by Sarah Wollaston to "make an unequivocal statement that [homeopathy] products will not give any protection?". Mr Hunt said:

"I am happy to do so and thank my hon. Friend for bringing up the issue. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that homeopathic products can provide protection against measles. The right thing to do is to get two doses of the MMR jab. As I said earlier, anyone whose children, whatever their age, have not had those two doses should contact their GP."[5]

On 6th August 2013, Mr Hunt was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live's Breakfast show and asked about his recent meetings with Prince Charles, in which it had been speculated that the pair had talked about homeopathy.

Interviewer: One other thing, it's been reported you met with Prince Charles last month and discussed your mutual support for the use of homeopathy on the NHS. Interesting to hear what you say about it. How can you advocate the use of a treatment that England's Chief Medical Officer, Dame Shirley Davies, dismisses as "rubbish"?
Mr Hunt: Erm, I don't. And, I'm not going to discuss the private discussions that I have with Prince Charles, because we have those discussions on a confidential basis, but I can tell you that I don't support homeopathy. I think that I need to follow the science, and what the science says, what the evidence says, is what I must implement as Health Secretary.
Interviewer: Thank you for that clarification, because there's a lot of chatter about that, as you know.
Mr Hunt: It's a pleasure. It's, yes, I'm afraid I signed an EDM, an Early Day Motion, in the House of Commons when I was a new MP at the request of a constituent, and that has lead to a great deal of that chatter, but I am very happy to clarify for you that I support doing what the scientific evidence says works.[6]

However, it was reported that in December 2013 Mr Hunt asked Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies to review three studies of homeopathy that had been passed to him by David Tredinnick. The studies, whose conclusions supported homeopathy, were two descriptive studies with no control group, and one small unrandomised study[7][8]. The full details of these communications do not appear to be publicly available, and we await further clarification of Mr Hunt's role.

Vaccines

In April 2013, Mr Hunt was asked in Parliament by David Rutley "In the light of the recent measles outbreak in south Wales, does my right hon. Friend agree that the claims made by Dr Andrew Wakefield about the MMR vaccine are both discredited and completely wrong?" Mr Hunt replied:

"I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. What Andrew Wakefield said had no scientific basis and caused huge damage and worry to many thousands of parents. It is very important to reiterate that the scientific way to prevent measles, which can be a horrible and even a fatal disease, is to make sure that children have had two doses of MMR. Parents of children of any age who have not had those doses should contact their GP, particularly in the current circumstances."[9]

In May 2006 Mr Hunt signed EDM 2159 calling for research on AIDS vaccines to be prioritised[10].

Reproductive Issues

In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Jeremy Hunt voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 12 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks[11]. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill. Hunt also voted on the same date to reduce to 16, and then 22 weeks as subsequent votes were defeated.

However he did vote against the motion on Prospects for life of handicapped child, which would have made it more difficult to abort a handicapped foetus [12].

He also voted for restricting the terms of licensing for human/animal hybrid experiments [13].

In October 2012 it was reported that Mr Hunt said of the legal abortion limit:

"Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is, and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it,"[14]

Early Diagnosis of Dementia

In April 2013 Mr Hunt tweeted:

"Just did dementia speech debunking idea there's no point in early diagnosis: medicine, good care and lifestyle changes can all slow onset"[15]

[He presumably meant "progression" rather than "onset", though we note that would have taken the tweet over 140 characters.]

It is not clear what Mr Hunt meant by "early diagnosis" and if he supported pre-symptomatic screening, which is a questionable policy - see e.g. http://www.healthcanal.com/mental-health-behavior/37838-routine-early-dementia-screening-a-disaster-in-slow-motion.html

Statistics on "Health Tourism"

See: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/cost_of_health_tourism_to_the_nhs-28866 (April 2013)

Blasphemy

Mr Hunt voted to abolish the offenses of Blasphemy and Blasphemous libel [16].

Equality

Mr Hunt voted with the winning majority on the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations bill, against the majority of his own party [17].

He also voted against an amendment to the Public Order Act 1986, which would have preserved exceptions for criticism or antipathy towards people based on their sexual orientation [18].

He is also on record as being for gay marriage, and supports the right of same sex couples to marry in church if they wish. [19]

Environment

Mr Hunt signed EDM 2378 in favour of reducing carbon emissions [20].

He voted for the designation of marine conservation zones [21].

Digital Economy Bill

Mr Hunt voted for the Digital Economy Bill, despite referring to it in these terms: "We wanted an iPod, but we got an Amstrad" [22] and "a digital disappointment of colossal proportions" [23].

References

  1. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2006-07/1240
  2. http://moteprime.org/article.php?id=31
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20002094
  4. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-11-13a.177.0#g185.1
  5. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130416/debtext/130416-0001.htm#130416-0001.htm_spnew114
  6. http://www.dcscience.net/Hunt-homeopathy-R5live-060813.mp3
  7. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jonstone/jeremy-hunt-sent-pro-homeopathy-studies-to-the-chief-medical
  8. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/08/jeremy-hunt-homeopathy-studies-chief-medical-officer
  9. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130416/debtext/130416-0001.htm#130416-0001.htm_spnew92
  10. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2005-06/2159
  11. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmsctech/1045/104502.htm
  12. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-20&number=202&dmp=1041
  13. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-19&number=192
  14. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9591141/Cut-legal-abortion-limit-to-12-weeks-Jeremy-Hunt-says.html
  15. https://twitter.com/Jeremy_Hunt/status/324893370705145856
  16. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-05-06&number=170
  17. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2007-03-19&number=79&mpn=Jeremy_Hunt&mpc=South_West_Surrey&house=commons
  18. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-01-09&number=42
  19. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/02/04/jeremy-hunt-religious-freedom-is-not-just-for-straight-people/
  20. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2005-06/2378
  21. http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2009-10-26&number=230
  22. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100406/debtext/100406-0009.htm
  23. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100406/debtext/100406-0008.htm

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