He became MP for Loughborough in 1979, and became a government whip in 1987. In 1990 he was made a junior Health minister, and then Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1992 to 1994. He was Secretary of State for National Heritage until 1995, then became Secretary of State for Health until the end of the Tory administration. He managed to retain his seat in the 1997 election (which had been renamed Charnwood). He launched a bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1997 but withdrew before the first ballot when it became clear his support amongst Conservative MPs was neglible. Instead he threw his support behind Kenneth Clarke's bid.