- Category : Political
- Type : MS
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Tension 2
Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne ( born 2 July 1954) is a former British politician, who was the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire from 6 May 2005 until 5 February 2013. He was appointed Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the coalition government following the 2010 general election. He is a convict, currently residing at HMP Wandsworth.
In February 2012, Hulne was forced from office by a criminal prosecution when he was charged with perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case. He vigorously and publicly denied the charge until the trial began on 4 February 2013, when he changed his plea to guilty and announced he would stand down as an MP and leave the Privy Council, which he promptly did. He was jailed for eight months at Southwark Crown Court, as was his former wife Vicky Pryce for the same offence, on 11 March 2013.
Huhne had twice stood unsuccessfully for election as leader of the Liberal Democrats. In the 2006 election he came second to Sir Menzies Campbell and in the 2007 election he narrowly lost to Nick Clegg.
Education and upbringing
Huhne was born in West London, to businessman Peter Paul-Huhne and actress Ann Murray. He was educated at the Westminster School. His family name was Paul-Huhne and he was known during his school years as Christopher Paul-Huhne. At Oxford, he simplified his name to Chris Huhne.
His education continued at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he obtained a certificate in French Language and Civilisation, and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a scholar (Demy). At Oxford, he edited the student magazine Isis, served on the executive of the Oxford University Labour Club, and achieved a first-class degree in PPE (politics, philosophy and economics). Huhne was active in student politics supporting the Labour Party.
1973 student article
A news story in The Sunday Times on 21 October 2007 said an article credited to Huhne had appeared in the University of Oxford's Isis magazine in February 1973 saying that drugs such as opium, LSD and amphetamines were an "accepted facet of our society". In response to questions by The Times about his 1973 pronouncement, Huhne responded "To be honest I don't have any memory of it", saying he was entitled to a private life before politics. The issue about the 1973 article continued in the Daily Mail and The Sun. In an interview published on the Kent News website on 10 November 2007, Huhne said, "I clearly regret the views and I don't agree with those views at all. I was a teenager and I'm now 53 and I think all of us do tend to move on in life."
Career before Parliament
Before embarking on his political career, he was a City entrepreneur. He told The Independent in 2008: "I don't claim that I'm in other than a very happy position compared with most people, because, having spent a bit of time in the City before I was elected, being able to make a bit of money while I was there, I have a cushion." He started a company named Sovereign Ratings IBCA in 1994 that tried to "scientifically measure the risks of investing in different countries". In 1997 he became managing director of Fitch IBCA, and from 1999 to 2003 was vice-chairman of Fitch Ratings.
Huhne was economics editor, leader writer and columnist for The Guardian, and economics editor, assistant editor and columnist for The Independent on Sunday. He was the business editor of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday during its investigations into Robert Maxwell's fraud on the Mirror group pension fund. He started as an undercover freelance reporter in India during Indira Gandhi's emergency when western journalists had been expelled. He also worked for the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo and The Economist (as its Brussels correspondent 1977–1980). He won both the junior and senior Wincott awards for financial journalist of the year (in 1980 and 1989 respectively). Along with his work in newspapers and magazine he cowrote the book Debt & Danger: The World Financial Crisis (Penguin, 1985) with Harold Lever, and wrote Real World Economics (Penguin 1990).
Huhne contested the 1983 general election as a Parliamentary candidate for the SDP–Liberal Alliance in Reading East but came a distant second and in the 1987 general election, he was the SDP–Liberal Alliance candidate in the Oxford West and Abingdon seat, a seat that would be won ten years later by Liberal Democrat candidate Evan Harris.
Member of European Parliament (1999–2005)
In June 1999 Huhne was elected as a member of the European Parliament for South East England. The Liberal Democrats came third with a total of 228,136 votes behind the Conservatives and Labour. The proportion of votes received meant that the party was able to send the top two list candidates to the European Parliament, Emma Nicholson the top list candidate and Chris Huhne, 2nd on the list. During the 2004 European Parliament elections Huhne was re-elected along with Emma Nicholson with the party having received 338,342 votes, 15% of the total vote. In 2005 Huhne stood for election to the United Kingdom parliament representing the seat of Eastleigh in Hampshire. After he was elected as a Member of the House of Commons on 5 May 2005, Sharon Bowles, the candidate third on the Liberal Democrat list, replaced Huhne as representative for the South East of England.
During his time in the European Parliament, Huhne was the only Liberal Democrat MEP in a ranking by The Economist of the three highest-profile UK MEPs (the others being Glenys Kinnock and Caroline Lucas). He was a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, concerned with economic and financial policy including regulation of the financial sector. He was economic spokesman for the pan-European Liberal group in the European Parliament and was responsible for introducing "sunset clauses" – time limits on powers – into European Union law for the first time; for radically amending Commission proposals on financial services; and for opening up the European Central Bank to greater scrutiny.
In addition to his European Parliament responsibilities, he was also active in the development of Liberal Democrat policy as chairman of four policy groups: broadcasting and the media; globalisation; the introduction of the euro and the reform of public services. On public services, he argued that money was a necessary condition of improvement, but that the key was now decentralised and democratic control; local voters needed to be able to hold local decision-takers to account.
Member of Parliament
Huhne was first elected to represent Eastleigh at the general election on 5 May 2005, a constituency within the area for which he was previously the Member of the European Parliament. The previous MP for the constituency, David Chidgey, was also a Liberal Democrat who won his seat in what was historically a Conservative area in a by-election in 1994 following the death of Stephen Milligan. The result in 2005 was close, with Huhne winning with a majority of 568 over Conservative rival Conor Burns. In the 2010 general election Huhne retained his seat with an increased majority of 3,864 over the Conservatives' Maria Hutchings. He was appointed as Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds on 5 February 2013, which vacated his seat and thus ended his tenure as Member of Parliament for Eastleigh. In accepting this office, he became the first official Liberal or Liberal Democrat MP to resign a parliamentary seat since 1941.
Following his election to the House of Commons then Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy made Huhne the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury for the party. In this role Huhne led the party's debate on the Finance Bill 2005 suggesting that amendments should be made to stop a pensions loophole which would have allowed rich investors to get 40% discount on property and other investments in their pension. In the Pre-budget report for 2006, the Chancellor conceded the change.
2006 leadership contest
Huhne stood against Sir Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes for the Liberal Democrat leadership after Charles Kennedy's resignation, formally launching his campaign on 13 January 2006.
Huhne was able to carve out a unique position on the issue of green taxation – he argued for a radical expansion of taxes on pollution, allowing for reductions in the income tax rate on the lowest paid. This theme endeared Huhne to environmentalists and market liberals alike, allowing him to gain a march on his rivals and pick up supporters as the campaign went on. He also argued for a repeal of elements of the Labour government's anti-terrorism legislation, which many felt had undermined British civil liberties, and for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq within a year. He described himself as a 'social liberal'.
Although the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs – and much of the party establishment – declared their support for Sir Menzies Campbell, Huhne did receive endorsements from some party notables including Lord Maclennan and Lord Rodgers. Amongst the media, The Economist and The Independent supported his leadership bid. He was backed from an early stage by a number of bloggers, and gained much momentum from a sharp internet campaign.
In the final vote, Huhne finished runner-up, tallying 21,628 votes to Sir Menzies Campbell's 29,697. Campbell appointed him as Liberal Democrat environment spokesman in the subsequent frontbench reshuffle, in order for Huhne to develop a viable programme to expand on his green campaign themes.
During the election campaign a news story in The Independent on 27 February 2006 reported that an unsigned document entitled "Chris Huhne's Hypocritical Personal Share Portfolio" was being circulated at Lib Dem leadership election meetings. The document alleged that Huhne had invested in companies that the document described as "unethical". The document stated "Chris Huhne is campaigning for the Lib Dem leadership on a green, carbon-neutral platform, and further advocates increasing tax for the wealthy, which would include himself. However, his shareholdings include, or have included, mining companies, oil companies and tax shelters."
Huhne has spoken of the need to "roll back [Labour's] security-obsessed surveillance state". However, he holds shares – listed on the Register of Members' Interests – in UK company IRISYS, which specialises in producing thermal imagers "for process, people and queue monitoring" and "which sells cameras to let shops count their customers."
The intellectual energy surrounding Huhne's leadership campaign did much to inform the Liberal Democrats' recent political agenda. His proposals for realigning green taxes and income tax – the green tax switch – were at the heart of the fiscal package endorsed at the party's September 2006 conference.
Huhne was involved in developing his party's thoughts on climate change and the environment, including a consideration of the challenges and opportunities they create for British businesses. He also drew attention to what he said was the divergence between the Conservative Party's recent environmental rhetoric and its policies.
Huhne was one of fourteen MPs forming an all-party parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism in the UK. Their report criticised boycotts of Israeli academics as "an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange" and accused "some left-wing activists and Muslim extremists [...] of using criticism of Israel as 'a pretext' for spreading hatred against British Jews". Huhne is, however, a critic of Israeli government policy in the Middle East, and strongly supports the creation of a separate Palestinian state. He described the Israeli response in Lebanon to Hezbollah's rocket attacks as disproportionate and counter-productive, arguing that a strong Lebanese state is in Israel's long-term interest.
In March 2007 it was falsely reported that he had written to executives at Channel 4 to try and stop their showing The Great Global Warming Swindle. In an e-mail exchange with Iain Dale, Huhne stated that he only wrote to ask for the channel's comments, and the Daily Telegraph later ran a correction and apologised for the misunderstanding, saying it was happy to accept that "Mr Huhne's letter was not an attempt to prevent the film being shown or suppress debate on the issue".
After Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, announced his intention during the 2007 party conference to stand for the leadership should Sir Menzies Campbell retire, Chris Huhne, when asked about his leadership ambitions said that there was "no vacancy, and it would be premature to even talk about the position of there being a vacancy".
2007 leadership contest
Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007 Huhne was considered to be one of the strongest contenders for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. On 17 October, Huhne became the first member of the party to announce his candidacy, saying "I've decided to give it a go" and declaring his vision of a "fairer and greener society". Huhne said that he wanted the party to be committed to the idea that "everybody's individual worth and chance is given its full possibility"
On 28 October 2007, Huhne announced that he had secured the support of 10 of his 62 parliamentary colleagues for his formal nomination. His rival Nick Clegg announced the support of 33 MPs. Huhne also claimed backing from at least twelve peers, four MSPs and three Welsh Assembly members. After former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown announced his support for Clegg, a previous Liberal leader Lord Steel declared his support for Huhne, based in part on Huhne's position on the Trident missile system.
In the last week of campaigning his team were bullish about his chances, predicting a win. In the final count, the party membership chose his rival Nick Clegg by a narrow margin of 511 votes out of more than 41,000 counted.
About 1,300 postal votes were caught up in the Christmas post and missed the election deadline. An unofficial check of the late papers showed Huhne had enough votes among them to hand him victory. Huhne stood by the result, saying "Nick Clegg won fair and square on the rules counting the ballot papers that arrived in by the deadline. There is no question of any re-run." Following the leadership election, Clegg chose Huhne to be the party's Home Affairs Spokesman.
During the leadership election, Nick Clegg registered a formal complaint about Huhne's conduct to Lord Rennard, the party's Chief Whip and returning officer. Clegg stated that his rival was indulging in "the politics of innuendo, mounting false challenges and running a campaign that is handing political ammunition to the party's political opponents". Huhne and Clegg were debating on live television on BBC's The Politics Show on Sunday 18 November 2007 when presenter Jon Sopel produced a briefing document that had been specially delivered to the show's production team by the Huhne campaign team on the preceding Friday. The document excoriated Clegg on a number of policy and political issues and was titled "Calamity Clegg". When challenged about the document, Huhne claimed that he had no knowledge of it and said he did not agree with the document title but agreed with the points within it. Asked how it was possible that he had no knowledge of such a major document sent to the producer of the show he was due to appear on, Huhne replied "It's quite impossible to check everything that goes out of the office... But I can assure you that's not had my authorization." After Clegg complained about what he called "dirty tricks" and other senior party members condemned the Huhne campaign attack, Huhne's Campaign Manager Anna Werrin claimed that the title of the memo was just the product of an "over-zealous researcher" and had not been seen or approved by Huhne or any senior campaign officials prior to release. "The document title had not been approved before the document was sent out and neither Chris nor I were aware of it."
Speaking to the Independent on 21 November 2007 Huhne claimed "Unfortunately it was a mixture of responsibilities. It was an over-zealous young researcher who was responsible for drawing up the document". The researcher was not on his staff, he said, denying that as a former journalist he might have been expected to read what was put out in his name before it was issued. However, in June 2010, after Huhne's long-running affair with his full-time press agent Carina Trimingham was uncovered, The Guardian and the Daily Mail revealed that the "Calamity Clegg" dossier had actually been created and circulated by Trimingham, who at that time was 41 years old, "one of Mr. Huhne's closest aides" and his official, on-staff press manager for the leadership campaign – reporting directly to Huhne.
Home Affairs spokesman
In October 2008, Huhne led the Liberal-Democrat response to the government's announcement of plans to expand the capacity to collect records of people using electronic communications. The Home Secretary's announcement was in response to warnings by police and the security services that the growing fragmentation and complexity of communications was hindering their tackling of terrorism and organised criminality. But Huhne disagreed with the government's response to the police and security services, saying: "The Government’s Orwellian plans for a vast database of our private communications are deeply worrying. I hope that this consultation is not just a sham exercise to soft-soap an unsuspecting public.”
In January 2009, Huhne was credited with uncovering an instance of data loss of government information caused by a courier company losing a computer disc containing bank details of up to 2,000 public servants working for the British Council. Huhne blamed the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and the government for the courier company's loss and said that the incident was an example of why the UK should not have identity cards: "This is another instance in a long line of slapdash data protection by government departments. If Whitehall cannot look after its own data records it should not be trusted with the personal information of every citizen as it wants with the identity card scheme."
On 6 November 2007, Huhne made remarks about the Speaker of the House of Commons on the BBC television programme Newsnight in which he claimed that the Speaker, Michael Martin, had fallen asleep during a speech by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "The Speaker unfortunately fell asleep during Gordon Brown's speech ... I'm not sure I'm allowed to say that, but he reacted in an entirely understandable way to what was not the most riveting of parliamentary occasions." After the remarks were repeated in several publications, Huhne made a public apology to the Speaker in the House of Commons on 8 November in which he withdrew his prior comments. "It was wrong of me to draw the Chair into a matter of political dispute. I hope you will accept I intended no personal offence and fully withdraw my comments."
Huhne was an avid supporter of Professor David Nutt after he was dismissed by Home Secretary Alan Johnson as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in November 2009. Nutt had criticised the government's decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug rather than keeping it as a class C. Huhne said the decision to sack Nutt was "disgraceful" and commented "what is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don't like, you sack the person who has given it to you?". Attacking the government, he said that if they did not want to take expert scientific advice they might as well have a "committee of tabloid newspaper editors to advise on drugs policy". Cannabis had been re-classified as a class C drug in 2004 by then Home Secretary David Blunkett, only for Jacqui Smith to reverse the ruling in 2008, a decision taken despite official advisers recommending against it.
As part of The Daily Telegraph investigation into expense claims by MPs, Huhne was reported to have claimed for various items including groceries, fluffy dusters and a trouser press. In 2006, he claimed £5,066 for painting work on his garden fences and chairs. He collected £119 for a mahogany Corby trouser press from John Lewis but later said he would repay the cost in order "to avoid controversy". He later claimed on a live Channel 4 news programme that he needed the trouser press to "look smart" for work. In June 2010, it was revealed that in the second half of 2009, after the expenses scandal news story became known, Huhne claimed £14,948 in expenses, including some minor amounts such as a bill of 14p for stationery. The claim also included costs incurred in servicing an old boiler at his constituency home. Huhne's office running costs during the 2007/2008 financial year were the 206th highest out of 645, his second home claims were 580th highest (or 65th cheapest) out of 645, and his total expense claims were below average, ranking 418th most expensive.
Huhne was one of 16 ministers whose assets were held in a blind trust.
Coalition Government (2010–2012)
Following the 2010 general election, Huhne became a member of the Liberal Democrats' key negotiating team alongside Danny Alexander, David Laws and Andrew Stunell that brokered the agreement to go into a governing coalition with the Conservatives. Following the negotiations and the formation of a full coalition Huhne was appointed Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the tenth most senior minister in the new government.There had been some speculation that Huhne might be appointed as Home Secretary as he had been the Liberal Democrat spokesman for Home Affairs in the preceding three years although this post went to the Conservative Theresa May. He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
A vocal environmentalist, Huhne accepted the role of Secretary of State with the stated intention of making the nation more ecologically conscious. Among his first actions was launching National Wind Week by speaking at an event in London's Leicester Square on 15 June 2010. Underscoring his personal commitment to wind power, Huhne erected an 8-foot wind turbine on his constituency home in Eastleigh.
Position on nuclear energy
In government, Huhne maintained a flexible approach on the subject of nuclear energy advocating the three-pronged portfolio approach to energy: a commitment to nuclear energy; the development of more renewable energy, such as wind and sea power; and new carbon-capture technology to mitigate the damaging environmental effects of fossil fuel-fired power plants and industrial facilities. In an interview with The Observer in March 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, Huhne stated that "there are a lot of issues outside of the realm of nuclear safety, which we will have to assess. One is what the economics of nuclear power post-Fukushima will be, if there is an increase in the cost in capital to nuclear operators." This represents an evolution of his approach to the nuclear issue. In 2007, Huhne was quoted as saying "Nuclear is a tried, tested and failed technology and the government must stop putting time, effort and subsidies into this outdated industry."
Cancellation of Sheffield Forgemasters loan
In June 2010, Huhne cancelled an £80 million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters to build power plant components which had been pledged by the preceding Labour government. He was criticised by Labour Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband who said that the money for the loan had been set aside and would have resulted in at least £110 million returning to the Exchequer. On 1 July 2010, Huhne replied to Miliband saying "The loan to Sheffield Forgemasters was not a commercial loan. If it was a commercial loan it would have been arranged through the banks and not by the government. It was precisely because of the public subsidy element, and the fact that the public subsidy element was not affordable, that the government decided not to proceed with it." The cancellation of the loan was one of a number of projects agreed by the previous Labour government cancelled in an announcement to the House of Commons on 17 June 2010.
Cancun climate change conference
On 9 December 2010, Huhne represented the United Kingdom at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The gathering, at which over 190 countries were represented, announced a deal to curb climate change which Prime Minister David Cameron described as a "very significant step forward." The agreement struck in Mexico included a recognition that deeper cuts in carbon emissions were needed and that a fund should be set up in order to help developing countries reduce their carbon emissions. Huhne described the deal as a "serious package" of measures but acknowledged that there was still more work to do prior to the next climate change meeting in Durban, South Africa, the following year. Following the conference, David Cameron said that his government would be the "greenest ever" and that Britain would meet its international obligations regarding climate change. Due to his attending the conference, Huhne was one of 8 Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain from the vote on Government proposals to increase university tuition fees. The vote had been particularly controversial for Liberal Democrats as many of the party's MPs had, prior to the election, signed an NUS pledge promising to vote against tuition fee increases. For the government, the controversial nature of the vote meant that, at one stage, it was considered that Huhne would have to return home from the conference in order to vote with the Government. Speaking about the possibility of the UK's minister potentially leaving the conference to attend a domestic vote Greenpeace Uk director John Sauven said to the BBC that Huhne's presence was vital, adding "with the outcome of the Cancun summit now hanging in the balance, attention must now focus on whether he can help to broker a climate deal". Conservative minister Greg Barker, also at the summit, did however return for the vote.
Support for AV referendum campaign
Huhne was an enthusiastic supporter of the AV campaign and attacked anti-AV campaigners such as his cabinet colleague, Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi. "If Baroness Warsi thinks that AV will benefit fascism she has to explain why the BNP wants to stick with what we have and Operation Black Vote supports AV. The BNP know the present system is their only chance of election. This is another example of the increasingly Goebbels-like campaign from the anti-AV people, for whom no lie is too idiotic given the truth is so unpalatable to them. AV makes lazy MPs work harder and reach out beyond their tribe. It is what Britain needs to clean up politics."
On 5 February 2013 Huhne resigned as an MP following his plea of guilty to perverting the course of justice.
Huhne married Greek-born economist Vicky Pryce (formerly Chief Economist in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) in 1984 shortly after she divorced her first husband, with whom she had two daughters. Huhne and Pryce had three children together. In a video statement made during the 2007 Liberal Democrats leadership election campaign, Huhne described his philosophy about family life: "Relationships, including particularly family relationships, are actually the most important things in making people happy and fulfilled". Talking about his wife to The Independent in 2008 he stated: "I also have a very hard-working and extremely intelligent wife, who manages to earn far more than I do." An election flyer distributed in his Eastleigh constituency before the May 2010 general election included several photographs of himself with his family members, each image accompanied by a hand-written caption.
In June 2010, after being observed and photographed spending a night in his constituency home with a woman other than his wife, Huhne admitted that he had been involved in a relationship with Carina Trimingham and stated that he had decided to leave his wife to be with her. Huhne's wife and children were unaware of his behaviour and plans. Within one week of Huhne's declaration, Pryce filed for divorce on the grounds of Huhne's "admitted adultery". A statement issued on her behalf by London-based solicitors Osbornes said: "The events of the past week have come as a tremendous shock to both Miss Pryce and her family." Trimingham had worked on Huhne's campaigns for the Liberal Democrat leadership in 2006 and 2007 and was a paid staff member on his 2010 general-election campaign. She was press officer for Brian Paddick during the 2008 Mayor of London election, and is now campaigns director at the Electoral Reform Society. Huhne was defended by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who said: "What goes on in people's private lives is a subject that fascinates the tabloid press but is irrelevant to the job they are trying to do." Huhne and Pryce divorced in January 2011.
Huhne owns seven houses—five purchased as investments on which he makes money as rental properties and two in which he lives (one in Eastleigh, his former constituency, and a town house in Clapham, South London). His wealth is estimated as £3.5 million.
"Electoral reform" is among the personal interests that Huhne cites on his biography on the official Liberal Democrats website. He describes his other interests as "European single currency, economics, Third World debt and development, Europe".
Huhne is a member of the European Movement, Green Lib Dems, Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists and the National Union of Journalists.
Publications and writing interests
Prior to his careers as a financial journalist, analyst and politician, Huhne wrote four books that are mainly on the themes either of Third-World debt and development or European integration: the latest is entitled Both Sides of the Coin (1999, with James Forder), in which he argues the case for British membership of the euro. The first was Debt and Danger (Penguin Special, 1985), an analysis of the 1984 Third World debt crisis co-written with Lord Lever of Manchester, the former Labour cabinet minister.
He was a contributor to the Orange Book (2004), in which he advocates reforms to the United Nations and international governance. Huhne was critical of the most controversial article in the Orange Book, in which David Laws proposed an insurance-based National Health Service. He did not take part in the successor volume, Britain after Blair and has voiced dismay at the way its predecessor was presented as a break with the party's social liberal traditions. More recently, he contributed to the book The City in Europe and the World (2005) and two articles to Reinventing the State (2007) edited by Duncan Brack, Richard Grayson and David Howarth. These cover the case for localism in which Huhne argues that there is no contradiction between localism and equality, and the need for environmental policy to tackle climate change.
Huhne has also written articles for Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and New Statesman.
Conviction for perverting the course of justice
In May 2011 Huhne's estranged wife Vicky Pryce approached a reporter for the Mail on Sunday with a claim that Huhne had "pressurised people to take his driving licence penalty points" on his behalf in 2003. Huhne denied the allegations of perverting the course of justice, contrary to common law. Essex Police said: "We take allegations such as this one extremely seriously and will take action where necessary."
In a YouGov opinion poll, before any decision to prosecute, almost half the respondents thought that Huhne should resign over the allegations.
Essex Police sent initial papers to the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the allegations and Huhne exercised his right to remain silent in response to police questions in May. On 25 June 2011, Essex Police said that a judge at the Crown Court at Chelmsford had granted them a court order to take possession of a recording from The Sunday Times in which the ex-couple apparently discuss the case. It then emerged that Huhne had again been interviewed by police concerning the allegations, and on 28 July the police handed the file to prosecutors. On 17 August 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service remitted the matter to Essex Police with a direction to investigate the matter further. On 25 August 2011, Essex Police re-submitted their allegations to the CPS. A decision on whether criminal proceedings would be instituted for the alleged offence was expected to be made by the end of September 2011.
On 28 October 2011, the Crown Prosecution Service referred the matter to Essex Police for further investigation, having completed a "full review" of the allegations. At a private hearing in October 2011, a judge in the Crown Court at Chelmsford ordered The Sunday Times to produce email messages between Pryce and the newspaper's political editor in relation to the police investigation. On 22 November, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC announced that the CPS was "very close" to deciding whether to prosecute. The reason for the delay was that The Sunday Times was seeking judicial review of the court order the CPS had obtained. The DPP stated "we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians". The judicial review hearing was scheduled for 20 January 2012. However, on that date The Sunday Times dropped its application for judicial review and said that it would comply with the court order for delivery of the documents.
The emails were delivered to Essex Police, who said there was no need to conduct further interviews. Essex Police had recommended to the CPS that both Huhne and Pryce be prosecuted for the alleged offences.
The DPP announced on 3 February 2012 that both Huhne and Pryce had been charged with perverting the course of justice. Huhne thereupon resigned from the Cabinet. As a result of his resignation, and in accordance with the rules governing severance payments to resigning ministers, Huhne received a tax-free payment of £17,000. Huhne and Pryce appeared before Mr Justice Saunders in the Crown Court at Southwark on 2 March 2012. A trial was timetabled for early October 2012, with the possibility that the case might start earlier. Neither defendant entered a plea and both were granted unconditional bail. At a plea and case management hearing on 1 June 2012, Huhne announced his intention to apply to the court to have the charge dismissed. Pryce entered a plea of not guilty, and would advance a defence at trial of marital coercion: that is, that her then husband coerced her into taking his penalty points. On 5 October 2012, the trial was adjourned until 14 January 2013 for "legal reasons" which were not disclosed. On 28 January 2013, Huhne was arraigned and pleaded "not guilty" to the indictment. A new trial date was set for 4 February 2013.
On 4 February Huhne pleaded guilty on re-arraignment, and was appointed to the Chiltern Hundreds, thus resigning his seat in Parliament and triggering a by-election. He was remanded on unconditional bail until sentencing at a date to be notified.
In February 2013, at the trial of Vicky Pryce it was revealed that Judge Constance Briscoe had been arrested in relation to statements she had made to police that she had not had any involvement with the leaking of the driving licence points-swapping story. Briscoe was arrested on 6 October 2012 as a result of a police investigation. No announcement had been made at that time as to the nature of the allegations against her. Prosecutor Andrew Edis told the jury that Briscoe and Pryce had "started it together by approaching a man called Andrew Alderson (a journalist working for the Mail on Sunday)", falsely claiming that one of Huhne's aides, Jo White, took points for him in 2003. Edis stated that Briscoe was a neighbour and friend of Pryce and that the "two of them appear to have cooked up a plan" to bring about Huhne's downfall.
On 11 March 2013, Huhne and his former wife were each sentenced to eight months in prison at Southwark Crown Court. He started serving his sentence in HM Prison Wandsworth. The day after the conviction, Conservative MP David Burrowes wrote to the Attoney-General Dominic Grieve, asking him to exercise his power of referral to the Court of Appeal, as in Burrowes's view the sentences were too lenient. Grieve has until 8 April - 28 days after the original sentence - to decide whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, which has the power to increase the sentences.