- Ex-wife Vicky Pryce also charged with perverting the course of justice for allegedly accepting penalty points for Mr Huhne’s speeding offence
- Pair will appear before magistrates on February 16
Last updated at 10:11 AM on 3rd February 2012
Energy Secretary Chris Huhne will be charged with persuading his ex-wife to accept speeding points on his behalf, the Director of Public Prosecutions revealed today.
Mr Huhne and Vicky Pryce will appear in court on February 16 both accused of perverting the course of justice, Keir Starmer QC said.
Mr Huhne was told he must resign immediately if he was charged today with covering up a speeding offence and David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed a snap Cabinet reshuffle.
Charge: Energy Secretary Chris Huhne will be charged with perverting the course of justice over claims he handed speeding points to his ex-wife Vicky Pryce, right
The Lib Dem minister and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce were told of the decision only minutes beforehand.
Senior government sources revealed that, following discussions with David Cameron, Mr Clegg has made clear to Mr Huhne that he cannot stay in the Cabinet if he faces prosecution.
As the Mail revealed last week, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood also ruled that the Energy Secretary would have to quit for the good of the Government.
That torpedoed an attempt by friends of Mr Huhne, who vehemently denies the charges, to suggest he would not have to quit to defend himself.
Last night Employment Minister Ed Davey was being lined up to replace Mr Huhne in the Cabinet, with Lib Dem MP and senior Clegg aide Norman Lamb expected to take over his post at the Department of Business.
Mr Cameron will today go ahead with a trip to the South West after agreeing the details of the reshuffle with Mr Clegg.
The Director of Public Prosecutions is facing huge pressure to let a jury decide if there has been a criminal cover-up.
Essex Police have been collecting evidence about the case against Mr Huhne, 57, who is accused of dodging a driving ban by making his ex-wife take penalty points when he was caught speeding on the M11 in 2003.
A fortnight ago, police were handed a cache of more than 100 emails from Miss Pryce after winning a court battle to get the evidence from a newspaper.
Top Minister: Liberal Democrat Energy Minister Mr Huhne could now resign from the Cabinet over the allegations
Detectives have also analysed a tape recording between Miss Pryce and Mr Huhne during which they discuss the allegations, a sworn affidavit which Miss Pryce made to the Sunday Times confirming her claims, and text messages between Mr Huhne and his son Peter in which they discuss the case.
In an interview with the Commons House Magazine released last night, Mr Clegg gave only lukewarm support to Mr Huhne. He said: ‘I’ve no idea what the CPS is going to do. Chris has no idea. I don’t have a crystal ball. All I can tell you is that he has made it very clear to me privately and he’s said it publicly that he denies any kind of wrongdoing.’
Mr Clegg also praised David Laws, who resigned from the Government over his expenses in 2010, indicating he wants him to take a second-tier job in the Cabinet Office, which oversees other departments.
‘I think he’s got an ability to see the connections between policies which is quite unusual,’ he said.
The alleged incident dates back nearly a decade, but only emerged after Mr Huhne admitted an affair with PR adviser Carina Trimingham in 2010 and ended his marriage.
The Sunday Times reported that he had allegedly been caught by a speed camera on March 12 2003.
He has consistently denied claims that he was the one behind the wheel and that Ms Pryce admitted the offence because he would have faced a ban if he collected any more penalty points.
Mr Huhne is alleged to have been returning from Stansted Airport to his home in Clapham, south London, on the day in question, having flown in from Strasbourg, where the European Parliament sits.
Images have since emerged of Ms Pryce’s driving licence, indicating that she received three points for a speeding offence in the Essex area on March 12 2003.
However, she is believed to have later said she was actually at an event in London that day.
Essex police started an investigation when it was claimed in a Sunday Times interview with Ms Pryce last May that her ex-husband asked ‘someone’ to take speeding points on his behalf.
It later emerged that she was apparently the ‘someone’ concerned.
The newspaper interview followed the couple’s split, when Mr Huhne announced he was leaving Ms Pryce for Ms Trimingham.
Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce had been married for 26 years and had three children and two stepchildren together.
After the allegations surfaced, the Eastleigh MP said the claims were ‘simply incorrect’ and had previously ‘been shown to be untrue’.
Both Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce were interviewed by detectives before the case was handed to the CPS.
Both Mr Huhne’s Lib Dem and Tory colleagues have expressed support for his remaining in post during the investigation.
The CPS decision was delayed by a court battle to obtain key emails from the Sunday Times, believed to be between its political editor and Ms Pryce.
The newspaper finally handed over the documents at the end of last month.
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