Jeremy Hunt

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For the British road racing cyclist, see Jeremy Hunt (cyclist).
The Right Honourable
Jeremy Hunt
MP
Jeremy Hunt Official.jpg
Secretary of State for Health
Assumed office
4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Andrew Lansley
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Ben Bradshaw (Culture, Media and Sport)
Tessa Jowell (Olympics)
Succeeded by Maria Miller (Culture, Media and Sport)
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
In office
2 July 2007 – 11 May 2010
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Hugo Swire
Succeeded by Ben Bradshaw
Shadow Minister for the Olympics
In office
2 July 2007 – 11 May 2010
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Hugo Swire
Succeeded by Tessa Jowell
Shadow Minister for Disabled People
In office
6 December 2005 – 2 July 2007
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Paul Goodman
Succeeded by Mark Harper
Member of Parliament
for South West Surrey
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Virginia Bottomley
Majority 28,556 (53%)
Personal details
Born Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt
(1966-11-01) 1 November 1966 (age 49)
London, England, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Lucia Guo (2009–present)
Children 3
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Website Party website
Personal website

Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt[1] (born 1 November 1966) is a British Conservative Party politician, who is the Secretary of State for Health, and the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey. He was previously Culture Secretary (2010–12).

As Health Secretary, he has been criticised for, amongst other things, his support of homeopathy, dangerous advice on meningitis, and imposing a contract on junior doctors.

Early life and education

John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, Hunt's 4th great grandfather

Jeremy Hunt was born in Lambeth Hospital, Kennington,[2] the elder son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt,[3] who was then a Commander in the Royal Navy assigned to work for the Director of Naval Plans inside the recently created Ministry of Defence,[4] by his wife Meriel Eve née Givan (now Lady Hunt), daughter of Major Henry Cooke Givan.[5]

Hunt was raised in Shere, Surrey, near the constituency that he now represents in Parliament.[6] He is the great grandson of Walter Baldwyn Yates, and 4th great grandson of John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon, 29th great grandson of King Henry I, 4th cousin once removed of Elizabeth II, and 5th cousin once removed of Sir Oswald Mosley.[7]

Hunt was educated at Charterhouse School, an all-boys public school, where he was Head Boy.[3] He then studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford, and graduated with a first class honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. He became involved in Conservative politics while at university, where David Cameron and Boris Johnson were contemporaries.[8] He was active in the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), and was elected to serve as President in 1987.[8]

Early career

After university Hunt worked for two years as a management consultant at OC&C Strategy Consultants,[9] and then decided to pursue life as an English language teacher in Japan. Whilst living in Japan he became a proficient speaker of the Japanese language and enthusiast of modern Japanese and other east Asian cultures[citation needed].

On his return to Britain he tried his hand at a number of different entrepreneurial business ventures, including a failed attempt to export marmalade to Japan.[10] Hunt joined Profile PR, a public relations agency specialising in IT which he co-founded with Mike Elms, a childhood friend. With clients such as BT, Bull Integris and Zetafax, Profile did well during the IT boom of the mid-1990s.

Hunt and Elms later sold their interest in Profile to concentrate on directory publishing. Together they founded a company now known as Hotcourses, a major client of which is the British Council. He retains 48% of the shares in the company.[11]

Member of Parliament

Hunt was elected at the 2005 general election, after Virginia Bottomley was created a life peeress. He was elected to represent the constituency of South West Surrey with an increased majority of 5,711.

After supporting David Cameron's bid for leadership of the Conservative Party, he was appointed Shadow Minister for Disabled People in December 2005. In David Cameron's reshuffle of 2 July 2007, Hunt joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition following the 2010 general election, Hunt was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (combining the roles of leading the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with that of Minister for the Olympics). He was consequently appointed a Privy Councillor on 13 May 2010.[12]

Expenses

In 2009, Hunt was investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.[13][14] The commissioner found: "Mr Hunt was in breach of the rules in not reducing his claims on the Additional Costs Allowance in that period to take full account of his agent's living costs. As a result, public funds provided a benefit to the constituency agent ... Mr Hunt received no real financial benefit from the arrangement and that the error was caused by his misinterpretation of the rules."[14]

Hunt’s offer to repay half the money (£9,558.50) was accepted.[14] Hunt repaid £1,996 for claiming the expenses of his Farnham home while claiming the mortgage of his Hammersmith home.[14] The commissioner said: "Mr Hunt has readily accepted that he was in error, and in breach of the rules of the House, in making a claim for utilities and other services on his Farnham home in the period during which it was still his main home. He has repaid the sum claimed, £1,996, in full. It is clear that, as a new Member in May 2005, his office arrangements were at best disorganised."[14] The Legg Report showed no other issues.[15]

Hillsborough comments

In June 2010, Hunt attracted controversy for suggesting football hooliganism played a part in the death of 96 football fans in the Hillsborough disaster; when it has been suggested that a lack of police control and the presence of terraces and perimeter fences were established as the causes of the tragedy. He later apologised saying "I know that fan unrest played no part in the terrible events of April 1989 and I apologise to Liverpool fans and the families of those killed and injured in the Hillsborough disaster if my comments caused any offence."[16]

Tax affairs

In April 2012, the Daily Telegraph disclosed that Hunt had reduced his tax bill by over £100,000 by receiving dividends from Hotcourses in the form of property which was promptly leased back to the company.[17] The dividend in specie was paid just before a 10% rise in dividend tax and Hunt was not required to pay stamp duty on the property.[17]

Culture Secretary

Hunt in 2010

In September 2010, The Observer reported "raised eyebrows" when Hunt's former parliamentary assistant, Naomi Gummer, was given a job within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on a fixed-term civil service contract after Hunt had proposed departmental cuts of 35–50 per cent.[18] The head of the Public and Commercial Services Union questioned Hunt's motives saying, "Political independence of the civil service is a fundamental part of our democracy and we would be deeply concerned if this was being put at risk by nepotism and privilege."[18] Gummer is the daughter of a Conservative life peer, Lord Chadlington, who was a director of Hotcourses between 2000 and 2004.[18]

As Culture Secretary, Hunt devised and championed a plan to give Britain the fastest broadband speeds in Europe. There was initial scepticism about his plans with concerns they could lead to BT regaining its monopoly.[19] However, speeds did increase significantly when he was in office.[20] He also spearheaded the drive for local TV and as a result of this policy Ofcom awarded local TV licences to Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea.[21] In culture his main focus was to boost philanthropy given the spending cuts that the arts along with other sectors was experiencing. Tax breaks were introduced to boost inheritance tax and gifts of works of art.[22]

During Hunt's tenure, competition and policy issues relating to media and telecommunications became the responsibility of the Culture Secretary; they were removed from the purview of the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, after Cable was recorded stating that he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch.[23]

Hunt was consequently given the quasi-judicial power to adjudicate over the News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB. Hunt chose not to refer to the deal to the Competition Commission, announcing on 3 March 2011 that he intended to accept a series of undertakings given by News Corporation, paving the way for the deal to be approved.[24] Following a series of scandals concerning phone hacking, a House of Commons motion was planned that called on News Corporation to abandon the bid. The bid was eventually dropped.[25] Hunt was alleged to have had improper contact with News Corp. Emails released to the Leveson Inquiry detailed contacts between Hunt's special advisor Adam Smith and Frédéric Michel,[26] News Corp’s director of public affairs and therefore a lobbyist for James Murdoch. The revelations led to calls from the Labour opposition and others for Hunt's resignation.[27] Smith, Hunt's special adviser, resigned on 25 April[28] shortly before Hunt made an emergency parliamentary statement in which he said that Smith's contact with Michel was "clearly not appropriate". Hunt said Lord Justice Leveson should be able to investigate and rule on the accusations and requested the earliest date possible to give evidence to the Inquiry to set out his side of the story.[29] Hunt appeared before the Leveson inquiry on 31 May 2012, when it emerged that Hunt had himself been in text and private email contact with James Murdoch.[30][31]

Lord Justice Leveson cleared Hunt of bias when the report was published, stating that "in some respects, there was much to commend in Mr Hunt’s handling of the bid".[32] He concluded: "What was not evident from the close consideration of events which the Inquiry undertook was any credible evidence of actual bias on the part of Mr Hunt. Whatever he had said, both publicly and in private, about News Corp or the Murdochs, as soon as he was given the responsibility for dealing with the bid the evidence demonstrates a real desire on his part to get it right. His actions as a decision maker were frequently adverse to News Corp’s interests. He showed a willingness to follow Ofcom’s advice and to take action, to the extent recommended by the regulators, in response to the consultation." [32]

As Culture Secretary, Hunt was the government Minister responsible for the London Olympics and Paralympics. He was famously filmed losing control of a bell on HMS Belfast that hit but did not hurt someone watching. When it transpired that contractors G4S were not adequately prepared for the Games, Hunt announced that soldiers would be drafted in and that he had been forced to "think again" about the default use of private contractors.[33] Hunt took the decision to double the budget for the widely acclaimed opening ceremony, and overall the Games were considered a huge success internationally.[34][35][36] In the aftermath, Hunt set up the school games as an Olympic Legacy project. Although there was criticism at the time of cuts in the school sports budget,[37] 11,953 schools took part in the School Games in the first year.[38] Hunt also pushed to increase the emphasis on the importance of the tourism industry, especially the potential of the Chinese tourist market.[39]

Health Secretary

Hunt was appointed Health Secretary in a cabinet reshuffle on 4 September 2012, succeeding Andrew Lansley.[40] He described the appointment as a "huge task and the biggest privilege of my life." The chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Mark Porter, said "The appointment of a new Health Secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS."[41]

The deputy chairman of the same association, Dr Kailash Chand, said "Jeremy Hunt is new Health Secretary—disaster in the NHS carries on. I fear a more toxic right winger to follow the privatisation agenda."[42] Hunt had previously co-authored a book calling for the NHS "to be to be replaced by a new system of health provision in which people would pay money into personal health accounts, which they could then use to shop around for care from public and private providers. Those who could not afford to save enough would be funded by the state."[43]

The Daily Telegraph science correspondent Tom Chivers expressed concern that Hunt is known to have supported homeopathy and Daily Telegraph Medical Editor Rebecca Smith said "his views on abortion and homoeopathy have made him a controversial figure to appoint as Health Secretary".[44][45] In 2014 Hunt asked the Chief Medical Officer to initiate expert reviews of three homeopathic studies carried out by Boiron, a French manufacturer of homeopathic products.[46] However, in an radio interview in September 2014, Hunt denied being a supporter and blamed his inexperience as a new MP for signing pro-homeopathy EDMs. He also said patients would only be offered homeopathy in rare cases when it was specifically recommended by their GP.[47]

In an interview with The Times in October 2012, Hunt said that he was in favour of reducing the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 12 weeks.[48]

In June 2013, he said that the regional variations in premature deaths throughout the United Kingdom were shocking. The table revealed that Liverpool and Manchester were among the places with the highest rates of premature death in the United Kingdom.[49]

In June 2013 he also announced plans to charge foreign nationals for using the NHS, claiming that the cost was up to £200 million though official figures put it at £33 million.[50] However, £21 million of that £33 million was already recovered, putting the actual cost at £7 million - less than Hunt's crackdown could cost.[51]

It was reported in December 2013 that Hunt was personally telephoning the Chairs of NHS hospital trusts where targets in Accident and Emergency Departments (A & E) had been missed, a course of action described as "crazy" by David Prior, chairman of the Care Quality Commission. Prior, a former Conservative MP, said that whilst Hunt, like his Labour predecessors, took responsibility, the result was money being diverted from primary and community care to A & E.[52] However Dr Clifford Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, blamed the problems on the Health and Social Care Act 2012 for causing "decision-making paralysis" and leaving the country short of around 375 emergency doctors.[53]

In March 2014, Hunt told NHS workers that the NHS could not afford to give a one per cent rise in pay to non-medical staff receiving progression pay (around 55% of total non-medical staff).[54]

In an interview with the Health Service Journal in November 2014 he said he wanted to stay as Health Secretary until 2017.[55] He has also declared that patient choice was not key to improving NHS performance, in a major break from a policy favoured by Conservative and Labour governments over the past 12 years. He stated that "there are natural monopolies in healthcare, where patient choice is never going to drive change".[56] Following a pre-election report in April 2015 that hospital chiefs shared an average 6% pay rise totalling £35 million, Hunt promised to investigate if the Conservatives won the election.[57] In July 2015, he broke patient confidentiality by tweeting a publicity photo with patient details visible on a board behind him.[58]

In July 2015 Jeremy Hunt became the subject of the first petition on a new UK Government website to reach the threshold of 100,000 signatures required for a petition to be considered for debate in Parliament. The petition, launched by a consultant,[59] called for a debate on a vote of "No Confidence" in Mr Hunt as Health Secretary.[60] The petition ultimately recorded 222,991 signatures leading to a debate on the motion being scheduled on 14 September 2015.[61] However, the Petitions Committee does not have the power to initiate a vote of no confidence,[62] and rather than the full House debate it,[63] the committee instead debated the contracts and conditions of the NHS staff.[64] The Government response on the petition website also failed to address the issue of confidence in Hunt.[65][66][67]

In 2015, an undercover Daily Telegraph investigation showed that in some cases locum agencies, Medicare and Team24 owned by Capita were charging some hospitals higher fees than others and giving false company details. The agencies were charging up to 49% of the fee. Hunt criticised those who sought “big profits” at the expense of the NHS and taxpayers and promised to “reduce the margins rip-off agencies are able to generate.”[68]

Hunt again drew condemnation from medical professionals when it was reported on 30 January 2016 he had suggested that parents should go online to look at photos of rashes if worried that a child may have meningitis. He was quoted as saying "if you're worried about a rash your child has, an online alternative – where you look at photographs and say “my child’s rash looks like this one” – may be a quicker way of getting to the bottom of whether this is serious or not".[69] Specific disapproval was drawn to the fact that a rash caused by deadly meningitis can look very similar to other conditions, as well as professionals pointing out the time-critical nature of meningitis.[70] Many doctors took to social media to highlight the dangers of these statements,[71][72] with their professional opinion being that the comments made by Hunt were potentially dangerous from a public health perspective.[73][74] The charity Meningitis Now said his advice was "potentially fatal".[75]

Comments regarding weekend and unsocial working hours in the NHS

In July 2015, Hunt indicated that he would be prepared to impose a new consultant contract on doctors in England which would remove the opt out for non-emergency work on weekends. He stated this was to prevent "about 6000 avoidable deaths" resulting from a "Monday to Friday culture" in some areas of the NHS and to reintroduce "a sense of vocation" in consultants.[76] The comments angered many doctors who responded by sharing photographs of themselves working at the weekends via social media using the hashtag #I'matWorkJeremy.[77][78][79]

In October 2015, he was criticised for the fact that his claims about hospitals being more unsafe at weekends not merely misrepresented the facts[80][81] but had caused patients to delay going into hospitals and thus put them at risk. His critics described the Hunt Effect where patients who needed medical attention at a weekend had been deterred from doing so because they were persuaded that it would be better to wait until a Monday.[82][83]

In January 2016, Hunt was criticised by top stroke doctors for using out of date data to try to show that stroke patients are more likely to die if they are admitted at weekends. In a letter to The Sunday Times, they wrote that there had been significant improvements since 2004-12, when the data Hunt referred to came from, and that new data showed there was "no longer any excess of hospital deaths in patients with stroke admitted at the weekend."[84][85] Stroke specialist David Curtis said even the outdated statistics didn't support Hunt's claims.[86]

Junior doctors contracts

In September 2015, the Department of Health announced that they would impose new contracts for junior doctors in England after failing to negotiate with the British Medical Association (BMA), a professional association and trade union representing doctors. The new contracts would extend "normal hours", for which doctors would not be paid a premium, from 7am to 7pm Mondays to Fridays[87] to 7am to 10pm on every day except Sunday while increasing their basic pay in a move that Hunt claimed to be cost neutral.[88][89] These terms were based on recommendations made by the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) who produced a report in July 2015.[90] In response the BMA balloted its members for industrial action, the first since the 1970s.[91] They argued that the contract would include an increase in working hours with a relative pay cut of up 40%,[92][93][94] and refused to re-enter negotiations unless Hunt dropped his threat to impose a new contract and extensive preconditions,[95] which he had refused to do. The Department of Health responded, saying "We are not cutting the pay bill for junior doctors and want to see their basic pay go up just as average earnings are maintained."[91] The strike vote started on 5 November.[96] Many junior doctors have said they will leave the NHS if the contract is forced through.[97]

Hunt later tried to re-assure the BMA that no junior doctor would face a pay cut, before admitting those who worked longer than 56 hours a week would face a fall in pay.[98][99][100] Hunt said that working these long hours was unsafe, claiming that existing pay arrangements were known colloquially in the NHS as "danger money", although a Facebook survey carried out by one doctor showed that 99.7% of 1,200 respondents had never heard of the term.[98][101]

In November 2015 he said he would offer a basic pay increase of 11%, but still removing compensation for longer hours.[102][103][104] In response, the BMA junior doctors committee chair, Johann Malawana said "Junior doctors need facts, not piecemeal announcements and we need to see the full detail of this latest, eleventh hour offer to understand what, in reality, it will mean for junior doctors. We have repeatedly asked for such detail in writing from the Secretary of State, but find, instead, that this has been released to media without sharing it with junior doctors’ representatives"[105] and "The proposals on pay, not for the first time, appear to be misleading. The increase in basic pay would be offset by changes to pay for unsocial hours, devaluing the vital work junior doctors do at evenings and weekends."[106]

On 11 February 2016, Hunt announced he would be unilaterally imposing a new contract without agreement or further negotiation. This followed a letter by David Dalton, the chief negotiator for the government and NHS Employers to the government on the preceding day who indicated that junior doctors contract negotiations had ceased after his final offer to the BMA had been declined and to "do what it deems necessary to end uncertainty for the service".[107][108] The letter was also signed by nineteen other chief executives of NHS foundation trusts, several of who withdrew support after the announcement of imposition.[108][109][110] The decision to impose angered many junior doctors, with some indicating that they would quit the NHS.[111][112][113] Hunt acknowledged this by saying that there would be "considerable dismay" but insisted that he needed to impose the contract to tackle higher weekend mortality at hospitals by forcing junior doctors to work more weekends.[111] He also announced an urgent inquiry led by the chair of the Academy of Royal Colleges Susan Bailey into junior doctors' morale and welfare.[114]

In response to his decision to impose the new junior doctors contract, Dr. Maureen Baker, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said "Imposing a deal on junior doctors is wrong-headed, will inevitably damage morale across the NHS – and may damage patient care".[111] The surgical royal colleges made a joint statement condemning the imposition: "Doctors in training are essential for the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care. The imposition of a contract takes us even further away from a goal to make the NHS the most attractive place in the world for doctors to work and risks permanent damage to the future of the medical workforce".[115] The president of the Royal College of Physicians Jane Dacre and the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Neena Modi also criticised the imposition of the contract citing concerns related to junior doctors' morale and patient care.[116][117] Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers supported the imposition as he believed the contract to be "fair and safe for doctors, and patients."[118] Simon Stevens the chief executive of NHS England also supported the imposition as a means of ending the uncertainty around the dispute.[119]

Junior doctor strikes

On 19 November 2015 the result of the BMA strike ballot was announced, with more than 99% in favour of industrial action short of a strike, and 98% voting for full strike action on a turnout of 76%. The BMA council chair appealed to the health secretary to resume negotiations facilitated by Acas.[120][121] Hunt said the result of the ballot was "very disappointing", but declined the appeal for arbitration.[122] He was criticized for failing to appear in Parliament to answers MPs' questions about the strike, with his deputy saying he was too busy preparing for the strike.[123]

He was also criticised by statisticians Prof David Spiegelhalter and David Craven, by Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, by an NHS England spokesperson, and by Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary, for, again, making misleading statements about weekend hospital treatment. The Department of Health confirmed his 10% figure actually related to the entire week, even though Hunt specifically said it was for weekend-admitted patients only.[124]

On 30 November 2015, Hunt eventually agreed to discussions overseen by Acas and withdrew his threat to impose a new contract without agreement, and the first day of strike action was called off hours before it was due to start (too late to avoid some disruption), with later days suspended.[125][126][127]

On 24 December 2015, Dr Johann Malawana, leader of the BMA's junior doctors committee (JDC), gave a 4 January deadline for the talks to result an acceptable outcome, or industrial action would be announced.[128] An agreement was not reached by this deadline and so the BMA announced that a strike would go ahead, blaming "the government's continued failure to address junior doctors’ concerns about the need for robust contractual safeguards on safe working, and proper recognition for those working unsocial hours".[129][130]

On 8 January, it was revealed that a supposedly independent response to the initial strike plans from Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England, had been strengthened by Department of Health officials and approved by Hunt.[131][132] Subsequently more than 1,000 doctors called on Sir Bruce to resign complaining that Hunt had exploited Keogh for political gain.[133]

The first day of the strike went ahead on 12 January. Hunt claimed it was "unnecessary", that patients could be put at risk, and that many junior doctors had "ignored" the strike call and worked anyway, but the BMA responded that many junior doctors were in work maintaining emergency care as planned.[134][135] According to unnamed sources at the BMA, Hunt personally vetoed a deal that could have ended the strikes,[136][137][138] something Hunt would neither confirm nor deny,[139] and a second strike day went ahead on 10 February (though doctors again continued to provide emergency care).[140][141][142]

Personal life

Hunt's wife, Lucia Guo, comes from Xi'an in China. They married in Xi'an in July 2009 and have a son and two daughters.[143][144]

Styles

  • Mr Jeremy Hunt (1966–2005)
  • Mr Jeremy Hunt MP (2005–2010)
  • The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP (2010–)

See also

References

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