Nick Clegg yesterday hinted that he would force Chris Huhne to resign from the cabinet if he was charged over allegations that he got his former wife to take speeding points for him.
The Deputy Prime Minister said it would be a "very serious issue" if the Energy Secretary were to be prosecuted, and added he would have to "take a view" on whether he should be forced out of Government.
He added: "We as a Government want the highest standards of probity to be in place in everything that is done by Cabinet members."
Mr Clegg's position is a blow to Mr Huhne, whose aides suggested he might try and remain in office pending the outcome of any trial. But as he could be charged with perverting the course of justice – which can carry a custodial sentence – the Liberal Democrat leader is thought to have concluded his position would be untenable.
The Liberal Democrat Consumer Affairs Minister Ed Davey or former minister David Laws would be front-runners to replace him.
Mr Clegg yesterday told the BBC: "I would like to see David Laws back in government – not just because I admire him a lot and he is a close colleague and friend of mine – I just so happen to think he would be very good for the Government and good for Britain," he said.
A decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on whether to charge Mr Huhne is now expected within weeks after The Sunday Times dropped a High Court challenge to a court order requiring emails relating to the allegations to be produced to Essex Police. A CPS spokesman said when it received the evidence the service would reach "a decision as soon as possible".
Police began investigations following claims by Mr Huhne's former wife, Vicky Pryce, in a Sunday Times interview that he had asked "someone" to take speeding points on his behalf in 2003 to avoid losing his licence. It later emerged the "someone" was Mrs Pryce.
Mr Huhne denies any wrongdoing.Reuse content