Huhne claims £17,000 Cabinet payoff
Former energy secretary Chris Huhne is to receive a £17,000 payoff after quitting the Cabinet to fight charges of perverting the course of justice, it has been confirmed.
Ministers are entitled to severance pay equivalent to three months of their ministerial salary when they leave the Government. However, the money is not paid to them automatically, but must be claimed by the MP in question.
Mr Huhne has come under pressure from opponents not to claim the tax-free payment, after becoming the first government minister in living memory to be forced out of office by a criminal prosecution.
But the Cabinet Office said: "We can confirm that, following his resignation from the Cabinet, Chris Huhne will receive a severance payment of three months of his ministerial salary."
Before his resignation on February 3, he received annual ministerial pay of £68,827 on top of his £65,738 salary as MP for Eastleigh. He denies perverting the course of justice by asking his then wife to take speeding penalty points onto her driving licence. Mr Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce are due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on March 2.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg would only say that Mr Huhne had taken the decision "alone" to accept the payment. He told LBC radio: "It's his decision. It's an individual decision. He's decided to take that severance pay."
Pressed for his reaction, Mr Clegg said: "It's a decision which he has taken and he has taken alone."
Labour MP John Mann, who has tabled a Bill banning such severance payments, urged Mr Huhne to give the money back.
He said: "This is outrageous. We should be asking Mr Huhne why he considers it appropriate to accept this money when the country is facing deep cuts. Mr Huhne should repay this undeserved bonus immediately.
"Now is the time for Parliament to back my Bill and ban these payments. I am also calling on Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband to back the Bill because there is no sense in making massive payouts to disgraced cabinet ministers."