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Cabinet reshuffle as Huhne quits

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been forced into a mini-reshuffle of their ministerial team after the dramatic resignation of Chris Huhne from the Cabinet.

Mr Huhne quit as Energy and Climate Change Secretary to fight a criminal charge of perverting the course of justice after allegations that he asked ex-wife Vicky Pryce to take a speeding penalty on his behalf to avoid losing his driving licence.

In his resignation letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Huhne said he was standing down to mount "a robust defence" against the charge. Remaining in the Cabinet would be "distracting", both to his legal fight and to his Government work, he said.

Mr Cameron thanked Mr Huhne for the "very good work" he did in Government, but added: "I think Chris Huhne has made the right decision, given the circumstances."

Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg announced later that his replacement at the head of the Department for Energy and Climate Change is business minister Ed Davey, who has won plaudits for his handling of the sensitive plans for the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail.

Mr Davey said: "I have now got to take up the challenges, the challenge of climate change, the challenge of energy security, and I am particularly conscious of the impact on consumers' households across the country of high energy bills. But I am determined to work to follow on Chris's priorities, the Liberal Democrats' priorities, the coalition Government's priorities and make them my priorities."

His promotion maintains the agreed proportion of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats around the Cabinet table fixed in the 2010 coalition negotiations, but some Lib Dems will rue the departure of one of their hardest-hitting ministers, who was ready to stand up to the Tories.

Mr Clegg's parliamentary aide Norman Lamb was promoted to Mr Davey's former position in the Department for Business, while Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central Jenny Willott becomes an assistant Government whip. East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson had been appointed as Mr Clegg's Parliamentary Private Secretary, to replace Mr Lamb.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the episode was a "tragedy" for Mr Huhne, but he was "sure" his former Cabinet colleague would clear his name.

Mr Huhne will appear in court on February 16 to face a charge which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. His former wife, Ms Pryce, will face the same charge over a speeding penalty issued in March 2003. The claim emerged after Mr Huhne split from his wife of 26 years.


From Belfast Telegraph