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|EternBoyX||Posted: 3/2/2012, 13:44|
Chris Huhne quits cabinet over speeding points charge
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Profile: Chris Huhne
Chris Huhne case: full statement
Chris Huhne has quit as energy secretary after learning he was to be charged with perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case.
His now ex-wife Vicky Pryce will face the same charge over claims she accepted his penalty points.
Mr Huhne, Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh, said he was innocent but would stand down to "avoid distraction".
BBC political editor Nick Robinson says there will be an urgent cabinet reshuffle, limited to the Lib Dems.
Business Minister Ed Davey is expected to come into the cabinet to replace Mr Huhne.
Essex Police have been investigating claims against Mr Huhne for eight months.
In a press conference, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the Crown Prosecution Service had concluded there was "sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the course of justice".
Keir Starmer: "There is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce for perverting the course of justice"
"The essence of the charges is that between March and May 2003, Mr Huhne, having allegedly committed a speeding offence, falsely informed the investigating authorities that Ms Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver," he said.
Mr Starmer said summonses had been obtained against both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce from Westminster Magistrates' Court and would now be served upon them.
They are due to appear in court on 16 February.
Shortly after Mr Starmer's announcement, Mr Huhne made a short statement outside his London flat.
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Political correspondent, BBC News
The departure of Chris Huhne, the second Lib Dem to be forced out of the cabinet, is a blow for the party.
His abrasive style has meant that he's never enjoyed huge support from his Parliamentary colleagues, but grassroots Lib Dems admire him because they think he's willing to stand up to the Conservatives.
He vented his anger when he confronted George Osborne about the way the Tories behaved during the referendum on AV.
More recently he raised eyebrows at cabinet when he interrupted the prime minister at least twice - Tory MPs won't be sorry to see him go.
As energy secretary he claimed some policy success when he signed the government up to tough new climate change targets.
He's forged a positive reputation for much of his work to push the green agenda, often battling resistance from the chancellor whose priority is cutting the deficit.
His cabinet job will need to be filled by another Liberal Democrat.
Ed Davey is a likely contender for promotion and his job could go to Norman Lamb, who was unlucky to miss out on a ministerial post when the Coalition was formed.
If he is acquitted, no-one's ruling out an eventual return for Chris Huhne.
"The Crown Prosecution Service's decision today is deeply regrettable," he said.
"I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree.
"To avoid distraction to either my official duties or my trial defence I am standing down and resigning as energy and climate change secretary. I will of course continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh."
Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce divorced in 2011.
In a statement, Ms Pryce, an economist, said: "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."
A former journalist who has also worked in the City, Mr Huhne twice stood for the Lib Dem leadership after entering Parliament in 2005.
He is one of five Lib Dem ministers in the coalition cabinet, in charge of issues such as energy market regulation and nuclear policy.
He has clashed with his Conservative partners on several occasions, notably during last year's referendum on the voting system when he attacked the tactics used by the Tory-backed No campaign.