Chris Huhne appointed to senior role with US energy firm

image captionChris Huhne will work two days a week "growing" ZBE's business in Europe

Disgraced ex-minister Chris Huhne has landed a senior role with a US energy firm three months after leaving prison.

The former Lib Dem energy secretary was hired as European chairman of Zilkha Biomass Energy (ZBE) last month.

Huhne's new role was approved by the body that scrutinises jobs for former ministers.

The former MP for Eastleigh was released from jail in May having served 62 days of an eight-month sentence for perverting the course of justice.

In an announcement on its website, ZBE said Huhne was appointed to the two day a week role with a remit of "growing the business in the European Union".

The company lauds Huhne as "one of the pioneers in calling for political action to deal with global warming".

But a profile on its website makes no mention of his criminal conviction, instead focusing on his high-flying career in politics and journalism.

Leaving government

Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce were jailed in March for swapping speeding penalty points so he could avoid a driving ban.

The offence, which dated back a decade, emerged only when Pryce approached newspapers after Huhne left her for another woman.

The appointment was approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), which advises David Cameron on jobs for former ministers.

The eight-member body must be consulted if a minister or high-ranking civil servant wants to take up a new post within two years of leaving government.

The committee aims to stop conflicts of interest and to "counter suspicion" that "an employer could make improper use of official information to which a former minister has had access".

It noted that Huhne had met ZBE during his last two years in office but concluded he "was not aware of any contractual relationship between his former department and ZBE and had had no access to commercially-sensitive information about any competitors".

The system for scrutinising jobs for ex-ministers was criticised by MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee in a 2012 report.

They said Acoba lacked adequate powers and resources, did not have "appropriate membership for its function", and should be abolished.

Huhne has kept a low profile since serving his jail sentence, which he described as "a humbling and sobering experience", at HMP Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire.

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