As it happened: Chris Huhne resigns ministerial post over speeding case charges

Key points

  • Chris Huhne resigns as Energy Secretary after being told he faces charges of perverting the course of justice, over claims his wife accepted speeding penalty points on his behalf.
  • Mr Huhne's now ex-wife Vicky Pryce will face the same charge, relating to an incident in 2003.
  • Mr Huhne, Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh, in Hampshire, has denied any wrongdoing.

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    Hello and welcome to our coverage of the Chris Huhne speeding case. For eight months, Essex police have been investigating allegations that the energy secretary asked his wife to accept a penalty for speeding on his behalf. Within the next few minutes we should hear whether the Crown Prosecution Service intends to charge him.


    The BBC's Norman Smith said "very good Lib Dem sources" are saying Chris Huhne has been charged.


    Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer begins his statement.


    He says: "We have concluded there is sufficient evidence to bring charges against Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the course of justice."


    Both are to appear in court on 16 February, Keir Starmer added.


    The BBC's Norman Smith said Mr Huhne might be replaced by Norman Lamb, currently the chief parliamentary adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.


    BBC political editor Nick Robinson is now saying he understands Ed Davey is expected to come into the cabinet and not Norman Lamb.


    Nick Robinson says Norman Lamb will probably replace Ed Davey as junior minister.


    Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik said it should be up to courts to decide whether he is guilty. He described Mr Huhne as a "robust, big" figure and said his fate would be decided quite quickly.


    Reporters are gathered outside a hotel in Eastbourne awaiting reaction from fellow Lib Dems.


    The BBC's legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said perverting the course of justice could carry sentences from life imprisonment to a fine. He cited a 2008 case in which a father was given a 12-month sentence for taking points on behalf of his son. The sentence was later reduced on appeal.


    Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is expected to leave a hotel in Eastbourne shortly, to return to London. Reporters are poised to ask him for his reaction to the charges.


    Vicky Pryce, Mr Huhne's ex-wife, says in a statement: "As the CPS have decided to prosecute, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage. Obviously I hope for a quick resolution of the case. In the meantime, I will be taking a little time off over the next few days to be with my family."


    As this morning's events look set to end a promising political career, we take a closer look at Chris Huhne, the man who wanted to be Lib Dem leader.


    Lib Dem blogger Richard Morris says everyone in the party will be disappointed with the news. He was "extremely effective" as a minister and at grass roots level.


    Mr Morris said Conservative colleagues in the coalition would be sorry to see a talented Lib Dem go, but "I suspect there will be a wry smile of slight relief as Chris Huhne won't be around the cabinet table any more."


    Nick Clegg has left the Eastbourne hotel, and got straight into a car without making any comment.


    We are hearing Chris Huhne is expected to make a statement at 11:00 GMT.

    1045: Robert Cohen, Cheshire

    writes: Let me make this clear from the start - I'm not a fan of Huhne. However, the media attention is, as usual, a bit premature. If he is found guilty by due process, then have your frenzy. But until then there are plenty of other matters to report on.

    1050: Breaking News

    Chris Huhne says he will resign as energy secretary.


    He tells reporters the CPS decision is "deeply regrettable" and he "intends to fight this in the courts". He goes on: "To avoid any distraction, I am standing down and resigning as energy secretary. I will continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh."


    In his brief statement, he insists he is "innocent of the charges".


    Speaking in measured tones outside his home in central London, Mr Huhne said he was confident a jury would agree he was innocent.

    Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire

    tweets: Rhino-hide Huhne defiant as he resigned. Lib Dems weaker without him at the top table. Stood up to Cons in Cabinet


    You can watch Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer's statement here.


    A spokesman for Osbornes Solicitors, the legal firm representing Ms Pryce, said they were not commenting on the CPS's decision.


    The BBC's Norman Smith says the CPS decision is a political catastrophe as well as a personal disaster for Mr Huhne. His political career is possibly over - and personally he faces the prospect of jail, if found guilty, he says.

    He adds this is also an unprecedented political moment - we cannot find a case of a minister being charged while in cabinet as far back as 1900.


    Returning to the CPS statement that sparked the resignation. Here are the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer's words in full.


    Still no word from the prime minister or his deputy. Nick Clegg is on his way from Eastbourne to London, and we're hopeful he'll comment on his return.


    Any cabinet reshuffle is expected to be limited to the Lib Dems, our political editor Nick Robinson understands.

    1125: Phil Harding in Bath/Bristol

    tweets: Huhne resigns Cabinet post whilst 'top' bankers pay themselves huge salaries despite wrecking the economy via their greed


    Ben Duckworth, editor of Total Politics, says Ed Davey will have "big policy shoes to fill". He describes Mr Huhne as someone willing to "stick it to" Conservative coalition members if he thinks they're wrong, such as over Europe. Mr Huhne is "enormously self-confident" and this is the "biggest test of that mental strength", he adds.


    Chris Huhne insisted he was innocent when he faced the cameras to announce his resignation - watch it here.


    We're hearing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will make a statement in central London at around lunchtime.


    The BBC receives a copy of Mr Huhne's resignation letter to PM David Cameron. He begins: "This letter is to submit with much regret my resignation as energy and climate change secretary. I intend to mount a robust defence against the charges brought against me, and I have concluded that it would be distracting both to that effort and to my official duties if I were to continue in office."


    In his written reply, the prime minister says: "I believe you have made the right decision under the circumstances."


    The prime minister also writes: "You have made a very significant contribution to the government, of which you can be justly proud. You were a member of the team which negotiated the formation of the coalition government between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats in those crucial days after the general election, with our shared commitment to come together as two distinct political parties and govern in the national interest. As secretary of state for energy and climate change, you have led the government's efforts to live up to its responsibility to tackle climate change with great passion and distinction."

    1140: Paul Waugh, Editor of News

    tweets: Paddy Power make Huhne 5/1 to return to Cabinet before gen elexn. Hill's offering 3/1.

    1141: Blogger Martin Shovel

    tweets: Looks like Chris #Huhne is about to pay a heavy Pryce


    The court hearing on 16 February at Westminster Magistrates' Court is expected to be short, and may not be attended by either Mr Huhne or his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, according to Clive Coleman, the BBC's legal affairs correspondent. Describing how the case will be processed, our correspondent says it will then go to crown court. The pair will have to enter their pleas within 14 weeks. If they plead not guilty, a full trial is unlikely to begin until September at the earliest, our correspondent estimates.


    What started with the very personal is now having very political effects, writes BBC political editor Nick Robinson in his blog, the coalition's most outspoken Lib Dem, most prominent advocate of policies to combat climate change and the man best placed to challenge Nick Clegg has gone.

    1159: Dose DV

    tweets: Why are the police wasting 8 months on wrecking Chris Huhne's career? It's a measly speeding ticket, not a murder charge!


    We're expecting to hear the first words from David Cameron at 13:30 GMT.

    1207: D West in Sevenoaks

    writes: All very exciting for the media, but the reality concerns a minor 'speeding offence' nine years ago which was inconsequential at the time, and totally irrelevant now. Considering the real problems we have in the country the proposed court case is an expensive luxury the country cannot afford.


    Chris Huhne will be feeling "extremely bruised", says friend and Lib Dem MEP, Bill Newton Dunn. He's "very honourable and highly able" and will feel an important mission is being interrupted.

    1223: Chris Elmes in Gloucestershire

    Perverting the course of justice is a serious offence and should always be followed up. It is certainly not a waste of public money and it is certainly not a case of wrecking Huhne's career. As a government minister we expect that he will act with honesty and integrity.


    Possible key players in the reshuffle - senior Lib Dems Ed Davey and Norman Lamb - leave the Hydro Hotel in Eastbourne without commenting.


    Norman Baker, transport minister, says Mr Huhne's resignation is a disappointment for the Lib Dems. We have a bank of people who are junior ministers who are very competent so there's a good pool to choose a replacement from, he adds.


    Watch this report on Chris Huhne's political career by the BBC's Ben Geoghegan.

    1241: Breaking News

    Downing Street confirms Ed Davey is to become new Energy Secretary.

    1244: Breaking News

    Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said Mr Huhne had been a pioneer in groundbreaking policies. "If he clears his name I have made clear I would like to see him back in government in a key position," he added.


    Paying tribute to Mr Huhne's successor, Ed Davey, Mr Clegg said he had a "lifelong commitment to the environment" and had "shown a formidable grasp of government policy". He added: "He is the right man for the job."


    In other reshuffle changes Norman Lamb MP becomes parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Jenny Willott MP becomes an assistant government whip.


    The new role given to Norman Lamb, formerly parliamentary aide to Nick Clegg, is Mr Davey's old business minister post and a promotion.


    Business Secretary Vince Cable said he was saddened by Mr Huhne's resignation. "He's a very good effective colleague in government," he said. "I'm sure he'll clear his name and we'd certainly like to see him back."

    Daily Telegraph Deputy Editor Benedict Brogan

    writes in his Telegraph blog: Chris Huhne maintains his innocence, but if he is found guilty he will have caused the coalition more trouble than all the political trickery his colleagues suspect him of put together.


    Read our profile of new Energy Secretary Ed Davey, including how he once received a bravery award for rescuing a woman from the path of an oncoming train.


    The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, Sir Graham Watson, said Mr Huhne's departure was a serious loss as he had a "great record on the issues for which he was responsible". He added that environmental non-governmental groups had said whoever succeeded him would "have very big shoes to fill".


    Mr Huhne is entitled to a severance payment of more than \u00a317,000 under the 1991 Ministerial and Other Pensions and Salaries Act - three months-worth of his \u00a368,827 annual ministerial pay, the Cabinet Office says. Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said it was "a matter for him" whether Mr Huhne would accept it.


    Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said Mr Huhne had championed the environment in an administration that had "shown little enthusiasm" for keeping David Cameron's pledge to be the greenest government ever. He added: "The new energy secretary must stand firm against Chancellor George Osborne's anti-green agenda and make the case that protecting our environment is a way to boost not hinder our economic recovery."

    1351: Breaking News

    Prime Minister David Cameron said Chris Huhne had made "the right decision" in resigning as a cabinet minister.


    Mr Cameron thanked Mr Huhne for "the very good work" he had done in government both in bringing the coalition together and in his ministerial role. He said he had "secured important investment into our infrastructure" and "done some very good work" on international climate change agreements.


    The RSPB's head of climate change policy, Harry Huyton, said Mr Huhne had played an important role in ensuring the UK maintained its leadership on global warming action. "Under his leadership, government committed to an ambitious 2025 target to reduce our emissions and helped negotiate a good deal at the global climate negotiations in Durban at the end of last year," he said.


    Lawyer Nick Freeman, nicknamed Mr Loophole for his skill in defending clients in high-profile motoring cases, said: "These sort of offences attack the foundations of the British judicial system and that's why they are viewed so seriously." He said the maximum sentence was life but those convicted typically received three to six months.


    New Energy Secretary Ed Davey arrives at the Cabinet Office where he is greeted by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.


    Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs and former head of media for the Liberal Democrats Mark Littlewood said if Mr Huhne returned to the backbenches he could still have an impact on the coalition. "He could find a voice in the back benches where he can be even more critical of the coalition than he can be inside it," he said.


    Norman Lamb, arriving at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said the circumstances of the reshuffle were "very sad". "Chris Huhne has done really excellent work, with innovative policies. He's done a really good job there," he said.


    That's all and thanks for following our live coverage of Chris Huhne's resignation. There will be continuing coverage throughout the day on our website, News Channel and radio.


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