Mrs Bottomley said it was 'no secret' that she had her son three months before she married. But it was a private family matter she said, adding: 'We maintain our concern to guard the privacy of our children, whom we love dearly and of whom we are very proud.'
Earlier this week Mrs Bottomley, launching the health White Paper, had spoken of the need to curb teenage pregnancies and said: 'Family planning plays an important part in the health of children and the well being of families . . . it is estimated that almost half of all conceptions were in some sense unwanted or unintended.'
Andreas Whittam Smith, editor of the Independent, said last night: 'I don't have any regret of any kind about that story. As Mrs Bottomley speaks to the nation about teenage mothers, it is a significant fact worth recalling that she was once an unwed, teenage mother herself and that she married the father, Peter Bottomley, a few months afterwards. I don't know whether her own pregnancy was unwanted or unintended.' He added: 'I don't think this is a disreputable fact we've unearthed.'
In response to concern that the story would hurt the Bottomley children, Mr Whittam Smith said: 'That's a risk that politicians take when they go into public life.'
Sir Norman Fowler, the Conservative Party chairman, said: 'All of Peter and Virginia's friends will be dismayed at this unjustified intrusion into their family life. It is ironical that the Independent newspaper who first produced this report once claimed that its aim was to set new high standards in journalism.'
Bob Cryer, the Labour MP for Bradford South, said: 'I think when people are in public life they must expect to be targets of press scrutiny, particularly government ministers, but I don't think there is any need to rake over the past in a way that is potentially malicious.'
A single mothers' group called on Mrs Bottomley to use her own experience in approaching the issue of single parenthood. Sue Monk, of the National Council for One Parent Families, said: 'We don't wish to comment on individual cases, but in considering policies on single mothers we hope Mrs Bottomley would use her own experience to develop a sympathetic and imaginative approach.'Reuse content