Chris Huhne

Kiran Stacey

Chris HuhneJane Croft, our law courts correspondent, brings us an interesting side note from yesterday’s (fairly harrowing) evidence session with Vicky Pryce at Southwark crown court.

According to Pryce, when David Laws resigned as Treasury chief secretary just 17 days into the job, Nick Clegg originally approached Huhne to offer him the job.

Huhne, who used to work for ratings agency Fitch, would have been a perfect fit for the role, which he used to cover in opposition. He was also one of the driving forces behind the Lib Dems’ pre-election economic programme, which was finely poised between those of the Tories and Labour. 

Kiran Stacey

Chris HuhneAfter pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice, Chris Huhne made this statement outside the court:

Having taken responsibility for something that happened 10 years ago, the only proper course of action is for me to resign my Eastleigh seat in parliament.

Contrast that with the letters he sent to David Cameron and Nick Clegg at the time. To Clegg, his party leader and rival, he wrote:

I am writing to resign, with great regret, as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I will defend myself robustly in the courts against the charges that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to press. I have concluded that it would be distracting both to my trial defence and to my official duties if I were to continue in office as a minister….

This is what Clegg sent in return: 

Kiran Stacey

Chris Huhne has written to both the prime minister and deputy prime minister offering his resignation. The exchange with Cameron is in a separate post. Here are the letters between the former energy secretary and Nick Clegg, the man he once challenged for the party leadership:

Dear Nick,

I am writing to resign, with great regret, as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I will defend myself robustly in the courts against the charges that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to press. I have concluded that it would be distracting both to my trial defence and to my official duties if I were to continue in office as a minister.

 

Kiran Stacey

Here is what Chris Huhne wrote to David Cameron in his resignation letter, and what the PM wrote in return:

This letter is to submit with much regret my resignation as Energy and Climate Change Secretary.  I intend to mount a robust defence against the charges brought against me, and I have concluded that it would be distracting both to that effort and to my official duties if I were to continue in office.

 

Kiran Stacey

Chris Huhne

UPDATE: The results are in, and, as widely predicted, Ed Davey has been promoted to energy secretary, with Norman Lamb coming into the business department. Jenny Willott has been made an assistant whip, while Jo Swinson is now Nick Clegg’s PPS. I’ll leave the rest of the post unchanged so you can judge for yourselves who right I was…

Chris Huhne has resigned as energy secretary after being told he will be charged with perverting the course of justice following allegations he asked his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, to accept speeding points on his behalf.

This means that David Cameron, famously reluctant to reshuffle his ministers, will now be forced into his second reshuffle of the last three months. As with the last one, in which Liam Fox was replaced by Philip Hammond, this one is expected to be fairly limited, with only Liberal Democrats moving. So here are the runners and riders:

 

Jim Pickard

It’s a striking headline on the front of today’s Daily Telegraph: “Greener energy will cost £4,600 each a year.” And no doubt it will fuel any incipient hositility to renewables among the broadsheet’s large readership. But is it accurate?

Technically, yes. Professor David MacKay, a government adviser on climate change, has done the calculations on how much it will cost on sustaining and replacing the nation’s entire energy system. The resulting figure – which is not synonymous with energy bills – is the total investment in energy needed (£2.4 trillion) over the next four decades. That is then divided by population to come up with the figure.

But as the article makes clear a few paragraphs further down, it could cost even more to rely on traditional sources of power such as fossil fuels and nuclear. (It also suggests we are already spending £3,700 a year already).

MacKay, who is a professor of physics at Cambridge – and has written a highly regarded book on the future of energy – has (with DECC officials) produced a “cost of energy calculator” setting out what Britain will need to spend in the coming years.

Key to this is his assumption that energy already costs us an average of £3,700 a year per person in Britain.

There are several future options including:

* “Do nothing” to develop low-carbon energy systems: this would cost £4,682 a year, 

Kiran Stacey

The tension between Nick Clegg and his one time rival for the party leadership Chris Huhne is well known, and stems not least from Huhne’s description of his current boss as “Calamity Clegg”.

But still, when Clegg addressed hacks in the press gallery this afternoon, you might have expected him to come out fighting for his energy secretary, who is facing allegations that he passed points on his driving license to his wife. Not so. Instead he used the opportunity to make a cruel, but quite funny joke at Huhne’s expense:

Whatever people say or think about Chris Huhne I don’t know any politician who is better at getting his points across.

 

Jim Pickard

I’ve just returned from watching Chris Huhne emitting some thoughts about air pollution at the environmental audit committee. His most memorable observation;

Sometimes I wish carbon emissions were bright pink because it would make it easier for people to deal with the issue.” 

Jim Pickard

We have been passed the letter (see last night’s blog) that sheds new light on the inter-departmental row over increasing carbon-cuts targets. Ministers must decide this month whether to legislate for the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations in full in Britain’s fourth “carbon budget”.

The row is not quite as straightforward as it first appeared; it’s not a binary argument over whether to accept the report or not. 

Jim Pickard

The recent clash over AV has been portrayed as evidence of a rot at the heart of government between Lib Dems and Tories.

In fact, many of the rows within Whitehall since last May have not fallen into a predictable party pattern. If anything, ministers have tended to take a stance based on the department they occupy rather than their party’s pre-election manifesto. Immigration was one such issue, where certain Tories surprised their new comrades by being more liberal than the Liberals.

Take BIS, for example, where Lib Dems Vince Cable and Ed Davey are not exactly showing a herbivore sandal-wearing attitude. Last week, Davey and Francis Maude held private talks with Boris Johnson over ways to tackle the London strikes. It was Davey, I’m told, who showed a tougher outlook than Maude, wondering why Britain couldn’t – for instance – have the “minimum service agreements” (used in Spain) to stop public services being crippled by strikes.

David Willetts made a similar point this evening about the need for both coalition partners to share responsibility for all policy, good and bad. 

Jim Pickard

If all low-carbon energy is given a public subsidy then has nuclear power been subsidised? You might have thought so.

But Chris Huhne insisted yesterday that this was not the case. 

Jim Pickard

My colleague Fiona Harvey revealed in October that plans for a green investment bank could be watered down under pressure from the Treasury.

A commission set up by George Osborne to look at the issue – led by Bob Wigley, the former European head of Merrill Lynch – had called for the bank to have powers to raise finance from the private sector, for instance by issuing bonds, green Isas, raising loans and other measures. But this was opposed by Treasury officials, according to Fiona:

They would prefer the bank to operate as a simpler fund, dispensing grants and loans in conjunction with the private sector but without the powers to generate its own self-sustaining financing mechanisms.

And in today’s Guardian Chris Huhne confirms that the bank will start life in the more limited form.