Chris Huhne claims £17K payoff after Cabinet exit

Chris Huhne

Millionaire decides to take money despite criticism of such payments by senior Lib Dems

LAST UPDATED AT 10:08 ON Wed 29 Feb 2012

CHRIS HUHNE, who resigned from the Cabinet earlier this month to fight charges of perverting the course of justice, has claimed the £17,000 payoff to which he is entitled - despite the size of his personal fortune and the fact that fellow Lib Dems have spoken out against such payments in the past.
 
The multi-millionaire former Energy Secretary, who owns an extensive property portfolio, is entitled to three months of his £68,827 ministerial salary – in other words, £17,207, the Daily Mail reports. As the MP for Eastleigh, he receives an additional salary of £65,738.
 
The payoff is not automatic, the Guardian reports, and must be claimed by an outgoing minister. Huhne had come under pressure not to apply for it – not least because senior Liberal Democrats have in the past criticised those who have taken such payments.
 
In 2009 Lib Dem MP Steve Webb, who is now pensions minister, said: "People will be shocked to learn that former ministers get these payoffs even when they have been sacked or left of their own free will. While thousands are losing their jobs, failed ministers get a huge payout on top of their salary as MPs. This can't go on."
 
When Huhne's fellow Lib Dem, David Laws, resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2010, he refused to claim the severance payment – although he had, admittedly, only been in the job for a fortnight.  
 
Huhne was resigned as Energy Secretary after charges of perverting the course of justice were brought against him and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce. She is suspected of agreeing to take penalty points on her driving licence that Huhne should allegedly have incurred when his car was caught by a speed camera.
 
Meanwhile, Huhne continues to have a tough time on the PR front. Last month David Cameron made a joke at Huhne's expense when he arrived at a social function, saying: "We had to speed to get here on time. It's a good job Samantha was driving – or at least, that's what it says on the forms!"

Today, the Daily Mail's deputy political editor Tim Shipman reportedly tweeted: "If Chris Huhne did not exist all the world's vilest politicians would have had to invent him in order to feel better about themselves."
 
Shipman then apparently thought better of it and deleted his tweet, prompting a complaint from the political blogger Guido Fawkes, who asked him: "Why did you delete your tweet about Chris Huhne being the vilest politician? Was going to make it Quote of the Day." · 

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