Millionaire minister Chris Huhne, forced from office by criminal prosecution, wants £17k pay-off from the taxpayer


Millionaire minister Chris Huhne, forced from office by criminal prosecution, wants £17k pay-off from the taxpayer

Chris Huhne accused of hypocrisy as senior Lib Dems condemned severance pay
Ex-minister facing criminal charges recently owns EIGHT homes
If found guilty of trying to dodge speeding penalty points he could be jailed
By Kirsty Walker

Last updated at 8:39 AM on 29th February 2012

Chris Huhne will pocket a taxpayer-funded payoff worth more than £17,000 today – despite being the first Cabinet minister in history to be forced from office by a criminal prosecution.

The millionaire MP, who recently bought his eighth property, is being handed the tax-free sum after stepping down to fight charges of perverting the course of justice.
Mr Huhne resigned as Energy Secretary on February 3 after he was charged over allegations that he used his ex-wife Vicky Pryce’s name to escape speeding penalty points.

By law, Mr Huhne is allowed three months of his £68,827 ministerial salary, worth £17,207. This is on top of his £65,738 salary as Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire.
The 57-year-old MP, who has fiercely protested his innocence, has been under pressure from opponents to forfeit the ministerial severance payment. However last night the Cabinet Office confirmed that Mr Huhne will receive it today.
His decision to accept the money has triggered accusations of hypocrisy as senior Liberal Democrats have condemned ex-ministers for taking payoffs.
In 2010, Mr Huhne shared a platform with Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi when she called for ex-ministers to forfeit the controversial taxpayer-funded payoffs.
She said: ‘At a time when people across the country are being asked to tighten their belts to deal with Labour’s economic mess, it is unacceptable that the very people responsible walk away with up to £20,000 each.

‘Forfeiting this pay would be the first step towards accepting their responsibility.’
Mr Huhne’s Lib Dem colleague, pensions minister Steve Webb, said in 2009: ‘People will be shocked to learn that former ministers get these payoffs even when they have been sacked or left of their own free will. While thousands are losing their jobs, failed ministers get a huge payout on top of their salary as MPs. This can’t go on.’
Mr Huhne’s fellow Lib Dem David Laws refused to take the payment, authorised under the 1991 Ministerial and Other Pensions and Salaries Act, when he stepped down from the Cabinet over his expenses days after the General Election in May 2010.
One of Britain’s richest MPs, Mr Huhne has an extensive property portfolio.
It included a £250,000 property in his Hampshire constituency, two flats in Highbury, north London, a house and a flat in Oxford, and a share in a house in Languedoc, Southern France.

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He has ceded to his ex-wife the £2.5million townhouse in Clapham, south London, which they used to share.
His eighth property is a £1.25million two-bedroom apartment in London’s fashionable Clerkenwell.
At one point, he was receiving an estimated income of £80,000 a year from rented properties.
A former financial journalist, Mr Huhne built his fortune as a City economist after founding his own ratings company Sovereign Ratings IBCA.
Humbling: Chris Huhne appears before magistrates after becoming the first Cabinet minister in history to be forced from office by a prosecution. He fiercely denies any wrong-doing and has vowed to fight the allegations
He sold the company to Fitch, where he became vice Chairman.
He once claimed back £119 on Commons expenses for a mahogany Corby trouser press, which he later repaid.
The taxpayer was also asked to foot the £85 bill for the ‘mounting, framing and inscription of a photograph of Chris Huhne’ to hang in the entrance of his constituency’s civic centre.
Earlier this month Mr Huhne and his former wife appeared alongside each other in a court dock accused of perverting the course of justice.
Co-accused: Vicky Pryce also faces trial over claims she accepted penalty points on behalf of her ex-husband
The case was sent to Southwark Crown Court for trial. Both were remanded on unconditional bail and ordered to attend the court on March 2.
The allegations, which stretch back to 2003, surfaced after the couple separated in 2010 when the Energy Secretary announced he was leaving his wife of 27 years for his aide Carina Trimingham.
His car was allegedly caught by a speed camera on the motorway between Stansted Airport in Essex and London in March 2003.
Mr Huhne, who has three children and two stepchildren with his former wife, has insisted he is ‘innocent’ of the charges. He said he was resigning to ‘avoid any distraction’ to his official duties.
The pair face the charge of perverting the course of justice – an offence for which, along with perjury, former Tory Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken was jailed for 18 months.
A jail sentence of more than 12 months would mean Mr Huhne’s Parliamentary career coming to an end, as well as his Cabinet one. MPs who are imprisoned for more than a year automatically lose their seats. It is not known whether Mr Huhne plans to keep the money. He was unavailable for comment last night.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that following his resignation from the Cabinet, Chris Huhne will receive a severance payment of three months of his ministerial salary.’
Speaking about Mr Huhne’s appearance alongside Baroness Warsi, Labour MP Chris Evans said earlier this month: ‘If he didn’t agree with her, he should have said so. He should now forfeit the £17,207 he is entitled to.
‘And if the Tories don’t make it clear that they believe Chris Huhne should give up this payment, it will be clear that they think there’s one rule for them and their Liberal Democrat friends and another for everyone else.’

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