Chris Huhne resigned as Energy and Climate Change Secretary today after being charged with perverting the course of justice over allegations that he asked his ex-wife to take a speeding penalty for him.
Mr Huhne and his former wife, economist Vicky Pryce, who faces the same charge, will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 16.
The charge - which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment - will eventually be heard by a judge at Crown Court.
Speaking at his London home less than an hour after the decision to prosecute was announced, Mr Huhne, 57, said he was quitting David Cameron’s Cabinet in order to fight to clear his name.
‘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 said.
Mr Huhne’s resignation will trigger what is expected to be a limited Cabinet reshuffle, with fellow Liberal Democrat business minister Ed Davey tipped by senior sources as most likely to take his place.
Other Lib Dem names thought to be under consideration for promotion are Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s parliamentary aide Norman Lamb and former Treasury minister David Laws, who could return to a Government position 20 months after being forced to quit by an expenses scandal.
Under the terms of the coalition agreement between Conservatives and Lib Dems, Mr Clegg’s party is guaranteed a fixed proportion of Cabinet places, and it is expected that Mr Davey’s place would be filled by a Lib Dem if he is promoted.
Mr Huhne made clear that he will remain MP for Eastleigh while he awaits trial.
‘So as to avoid any distraction to either my official duties or my trial defence, I am standing down, resigning, as Energy and Climate Change Secretary,’ he said.
‘I will of course continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh.’
A spokeswoman for Osbornes solicitors, the legal firm representing Ms Pryce, said they were not commenting on the decision.