Huhne and the wife he left to be reunited – in a court

Energy Secretary resigns from Government after being charged with perverting course of justice

Chris Huhne and his estranged wife, Vicky Pryce, are to be reunited in a Crown Court dock after England's most senior prosecutor ruled there was enough evidence to charge them both with perverting the course of justice.

Shortly after 10am yesterday, Mr Huhne became the first serving cabinet minister to resign to fight criminal charges, after an eight-month police inquiry. He will now appear alongside Ms Pryce at Westminster Magistrates' Court a week on Thursday. If they are eventually found guilty both face jail.

Mr Huhne phoned his party leader, Nick Clegg, minutes after being informed by prosecutors that they intended to charge him in relation to allegations that he persuaded Ms Pryce to take speeding points on his behalf in 2003 to stop him losing his licence. The allegations came to light after the couple split acrimoniously after 26 years of marriage.

Mr Cameron was informed as he travelled to an engagement in the West Country and later had a five-minute phone call with Mr Huhne in which the Energy and Climate Change Secretary confirmed he was standing down.

The Independent understands that Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron had already made contingency plans, which were immediately put in place. Mr Cameron called Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Business minister, and offered him Mr Huhne's job. Norman Lamb, Mr Clegg's Parliamentary Private Secretary, was offered Mr Davey's job.

Despite the carefully orchestrated attempt to portray "business as usual", senior Liberal Democrats were deeply perturbed at the decision to prosecute. Not only does the decision rob the party of one of its most able ministers, but some close to Mr Clegg fear that if Mr Huhne is cleared he could become a potential threat to the leadership.

In his letter accepting Mr Huhne's resignation, Mr Clegg was careful to keep the door open for his return. "I fully understand your decision to stand down from government in order to clear your name," he wrote. "But I hope you will be able to do so rapidly so that you can return to play a key role in government as soon as possible."

Mr Huhne told Mr Clegg he had "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". It is not yet clear whether Mr Huhne, who is a self-made millionaire, will accept the £17,200 severance payment he is entitled to as an ex-minister. Labour called for him to give up the payment, but his own party insisted it was a personal matter.

Mr Davey's promotion maintains the proportions of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet that were agreed in the 2010 coalition negotiations. But some environmental groups are nervous that he is not as "big a hitter" as Mr Huhne, who successfully fought George Osborne over the Green Investment Bank and persuaded the Government to sign up to the fourth carbon budget. Mr Clegg's aides insisted that Mr Davey had proved himself an effective minister who will continue Mr Huhne's agenda. "He has a different style from Chris," one said. "But then, most people do."

In a televised news conference, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said that having reviewed the evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service believed there was enough to bring charges: "The essence of the charges is that, between March and May 2003, Mr Huhne, having allegedly committed a speeding offence, falsely informed the investigating authorities that Ms Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver."

Describing the prosecution as "deeply regrettable", Mr Huhne, 57, said: "I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree." He made clear that he will remain MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire while he awaits trial.

Ms Pryce, a prominent economist, told the BBC she hoped for a "quick resolution" to the case, adding that "it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage".

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments