What is Chris Huhne accused of and who might replace him?

Feb 3, 2012

Energy Secretary could step down this morning, leaving a job vacancy for an ambitious Lib Dem

CHRIS HUHNE will learn this morning whether he and his former wife Vicky Pryce are to face prosecution over allegations that the Lib Dem Energy Secretary avoided a driving ban by lying about who was driving a car caught speeding by a roadside camera nine years ago.  The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, was due to announce his decision this morning.

In May 2003, a car belonging to Huhne - who was then an MEP - was caught on a speed camera on the M11 driving back from Stansted Airport. Eight years later, in May 2011, a number of Sunday newspapers alleged that Huhne had asked his then-wife, Vicky Pryce, to claim she was driving the car and take his penalty points. It is thought that had Huhne taken the penalty points, he would have faced an automatic driving ban.

Huhne has always denied the allegations, saying in May last year they had been raised before by his enemies and were "simply incorrect".

If Starmer announces his intention to prosecute, Huhne - while maintaining his innocence - is likely to step down, saying the case will be too much of a distraction for him to continue. The final decision rests with the Prime Minister - and the BBC's Nick Robinson says that David Cameron has already consulted with his coalition partner, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, and decided that Huhne will have to quit.

If Huhne steps down, a Cabinet reshuffle is likely. Since Huhne is a Lib Dem, it will mean promotion for another member of his party: but who?

Some observers are saying David Laws, who has already been forced to quit the Cabinet for wrongly claiming allowances, might be brought back. In an interview with Parliament's House magazine published yesterday, Clegg praised Laws, saying: "What I would like to see David do is to be close to the centre of power in one shape or form, with ideally quite a broad view of government policy."

The Guardian reports that Ed Davey, the minister responsible for the Post Office - which is not a Cabinet position - might be promoted. Business Secretary Vince Cable has also expressed interest in Huhne's job in the past, although if he were moved to energy, another Lib Dem would need to be promoted to the Cabinet.

Sky News reports that Jeremy Browne, a Foreign Office minister, Steve Webb at Work and Pensions, Sarah Teather at Education, and Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office are all in the frame - and the latter two would bring the distinct advantage of being women in what is a male-dominated Cabinet.

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