Chris Huhne tries to avoid Commons appearance
Labour fury at energy secretary’s bid to introduce key green policy in absentia
The embattled energy secretary Chris Huhne is attempting to do another disappearing trick today and Labour are hot on his tail. He has infuriated the opposition by trying to sneak out a major announcement on climate change by written answer instead of going to the despatch box.
Huhne is accused of running scared, and there is going to be an almighty row in the Commons at the start of business this afternoon unless he changes his mind first. He could suffer the indignity of being forced to go to the chamber to answer questions about the policy by the speaker, John Bercow.
It's not as undignified as Dominque Strauss-Khan in handcuffs, but it's pretty bad, and it shows that Huhne cannot do his job properly as a cabinet minister while he tries to clear his name of the allegations that he may have been guilty of perverting the course of justice by claiming his wife was responsible for speeding one day in Essex in 2003 - when she appears to have been in London.
Meg Hillier, the Labour shadow energy secretary, is set to lodge a formal request with Bercow for an oral statement from Huhne.
"I am demanding that Chris Huhne comes to the House in person to make his announcement and answer to MPs," she said. "The fourth carbon budget will have a massive impact on British households, jobs and firms. It beggars belief that he is considering slipping out the announcement as a written statement."
As the Mole reported yesterday, Huhne won a cabinet battle against George Osborne and Vince Cable to reduce emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. That is seen as good news for the grimly eco-friendly Huhne, though Osborne and Cable won a review clause under which there could be a rethink if our EU competitors are found to be backsliding on their global warming targets.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg gave Huhne their backing yesterday - though it was hardly fulsome praise. Asked whether or not he had confidence in Huhne, the PM said: "He denied the allegations."
Cameron's spokesman said his boss still had "full confidence" in Huhne, but few other MPs were rushing to the cameras to support him. ·
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