Huhne Charges Prompt Cabinet Reshuffle

Chris Huhne has quit his job as Energy and Climate Change Secretary in David Cameron's Cabinet to fight a criminal charge of perverting the course of justice in connection with a speeding offence in Essex.

The events which led to the charges date back almost a decade to March 2003, when Huhne's car was allegedly caught by a speed camera on the motorway between Stansted Airport and London.

Huhne and ex-wife Vicky Pryce, who faces the same charge, will appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on February 16 to answer allegations that he persuaded her to take his penalty points for the speeding ticket.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire declared he was innocent and would mount a ''robust defence'' against the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

His departure forced a mini-reshuffle which saw Lib Dem business minister Ed Davey promoted to the Cabinet as Energy Secretary. The vacancy left by Mr Davey in the Department for Business was filled by Norman Lamb, a parliamentary aide to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The changes - which involved only Lib Dem MPs - were announced by Mr Clegg, who said he was hoping Huhne would make a swift return to Government if he was acquitted.

In a letter to his former leadership rival, Mr Clegg said: ''I fully understand your decision to stand down from Government in order to clear your name, but I hope you will be able to do so rapidly so that you can return to play a key role in Government as soon as possible.''

However, the Prime Minister made no mention of a possible return in his own letter accepting Huhne's resignation, saying only: ''Like the Deputy Prime Minister, I am sorry to see you leave the Government under these circumstances and wish you well for the future.''

Huhne, 57, is the third Cabinet minister - and the second senior Lib Dem - to be forced out since the formation of the coalition in 2010, following David Laws and Liam Fox.

His departure will be rued by Lib Dems on the left of the party, who saw him as one of the ministers most able to stand up for their values against Conservatives in Cabinet.

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