HEALTH Secretary Patricia Hewitt faced angry midwives as she spoke of the need to close some maternity units.
Ms Hewitt, who also faced a vote of no confidence in the Commons over her handling of the junior doctors' training crisis, said evidence showed there was a need for reconfiguring maternity services.
She told midwives at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) conference in Brighton that doctors assessing changes in Manchester had told her that babies' lives could be saved that way.
The plan to shift full maternity servcies from Huddersfield to Halifax prompted a massive public outcry last year.
Ms Hewitt told midwives there were pressures towards change and they came from the royal colleges and the European Working Time Directive, which limits the amount of hours doctors can work.
She said she could understand why there was a need for other services outside midwifery-led units.
But she said doctors and midwives had made a clinical case for change.
She admitted that recommendations on the potential closure of services in Manchester were "quite difficult and unpopular" but it was good for babies and mothers and that is "very convincing."
She said: "It makes perfect sense to me as a mother-of-two that if you are having a birth in a consultant-led unit and you need an anaesthetist, you want that anaesthetist to be a specialist, and that does mean you need more (care) than you would get at a midwifery-led unit."
Maternity services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary are to be midwife-led. Consultant-led services are to be relocated to the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.
Ms Hewitt added: "I think that what you are seeing in Manchester are doctors and midwives [who are] saying that you need fewer specialist services and fewer consultant-led units and in that case you save up to 30 babies' lives a year.
"Now I don't think we can walk away from that kind of evidence."
She spoke as the Tories prepared to release figures claiming up to one in three consultant-led maternity units could close across England.
They based their figures on a report from national director for maternity services, Sheila Shribman, which spoke of closure within the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.
Two units each catered for around 2,500 births a year but, on their own, neither was big enough to justify the spend needed to retain specialist skills, the report said.