A 51-year-old former solicitor and Lloyd's underwriter, Mr Hunt is a patron of the Reform Group of Tory 'wets' and the only member of the Cabinet known to have voted for Michael Heseltine in the party leadership contest after Baroness Thatcher was ousted. He has described himself as a 'pragmatic progressive'.
As a Tory vice-chairman in the early 1980s, he was in charge of keeping out right-wing extremists. Ten years earlier, as a Young Conservative activist, he made an impact at a party conference with an attack on Enoch Powell.
A calm and collected Commons performer, Mr Hunt is a close friend of Chris Patten, the former Conservative Party chairman, whose political outlook he shares. Charming in private, Mr Hunt demonstrated a sterner public face as Minister of State for Energy during the 1984-85 miners' strike.
He has voted for capital punishment for the murderers of policemen and during service in the Whips' Office, from 1981 to 1984 and again in 1987, cajoled reluctant Tory wets through the division lobbies on issues such as the freeze on child benefit when he might privately have shared their distaste.
A pro-European, he was educated at Liverpool College and Montpellier and Bristol universities, and entered Parliament in 1976 as MP for Wirral.
Though brought up on Mer seyside, he was born in Wales and, on taking up the job he now leaves, declared: 'For someone born in Wales it must be the greatest ambition of one's life.'Reuse content