Chris Huhne resigned today as energy and climate change secretary to fight charges he transferred speeding points to his then wife Vicky Price in 2003. The Crown Prosecution Service this morning charged both Huhne and Price with perverting the course of justice, a charge the senior Lib Dem MP strenuosly denies.
“The Crown Prosecution Service’s decision today is deeply regrettable.
“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.”
Responding to the resignation, Friends of the Earth praised Huhne for having ”championed the environment” in a government that had lost its way in meeting David Cameron’s pledge to be “the greenest government ever”, and warned that his successor would have to “stand firm against George Osborne’s anti-green agenda” and make the case for the environment.
FoE director Andy Atkins said:
“Chris Huhne has championed the environment in an administration that’s shown little enthusiasm for keeping David Cameron’s pledge to be the greenest Government ever.
“He should be commended for insisting on tougher climate targets and fighting for a Green Investment Bank - but his department’s incompetent handling of solar cuts has put 29,000 jobs at risk.
“Leaving consumers to compare energy tariffs as a way to tackle soaring bills is woefully inadequate. What we really need is decisive Government action to get us off the hook of expensive fossil fuels and invest in clean British energy instead.
“The new energy secretary must stand firm against George Osborne’s anti-green agenda and make the case that protecting our environment is a way to boost not hinder our economic recovery.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the political fallout from the resignation, the BBC’s political correspondent Vicki Young writes:
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.
Huhne and Price are due to appear in court on February 16th.
• Tabloid attacks on green movement mean we have to raise our game – Reg Platt, November 29th 2011
• Huhne must do more than talk to help the poor this winter – Charles Samuda, November 17th 2011
• Huhne’s hot air may set back fight for climate consensus – Adam Corner, October 27th 2011
• Huhne’s tough talk on energy companies exactly what we need – Natan Doron, September 20th 2011
• Huhne must heed lessons of US to fulfil “250,000 green jobs” pledge – Clare McNeil, July 24th 2011
• Huhne and Greening are not serving the environment, but undermining it – Dominic Maxwell, June 29th 2011
• Huhne needs to impose competition on the energy ‘market’ – Charles Samuda, June 29th 2011