Monday News Review

Pressure mounts on Huhne

Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, is to be investigated by police over allegations that he allowed his wife Vicky Pryce to take speeding points on his behalf. Essex police have assigned an officer to investigate the claims that would almost certainly result in the end of Mr Huhne’s ministerial career and a jail sentence if proven. The suggestion that the former Liberal Democrat leadership contender persuaded someone else to accept his speeding points, so he could avoid a driving ban, was first raised publicly by his estranged wife Vicky Pryce last week. The Daily Telegraph has learnt that the person alleged to have taken the points is Miss Pryce herself. Last night, Labour MPs urged Mr Huhne to stand down from the Cabinet while the allegations are investigated. His resignation would be a significant political blow to the Coalition, which has already had to cope with the loss of the Lib Dem treasury secretary David Laws over an expenses scandal. Sources close to Mr Huhne, 56, maintain that the allegations against him are false.  – the Telegraph

The political future of Chris Huhne was clouded by doubt on Sunday as police considered whether to investigate claims the energy secretary asked another person to take driving penalty points on his behalf for a speeding offence. The energy secretary, twice a contender to lead the Liberal Democrats, is under pressure from Vicky Pryce, his estranged wife, who made the claims in newspaper interviews last week. He denies any wrongdoing. Ms Pryce, a former chief economist at the business department, told the Mail on Sunday last week: “I am aware that he pressurised people to take his driving licence penalty points.” Lying to the police is a criminal offence. Essex police said they were looking again at a speeding offence committed in 2003 – when Mr Huhne was an MEP – after receiving a formal complaint from Labour MP Simon Danczuk. “This information will be passed to officers who will decide on whether an investigation will be launched,” the force said in a statement. “We take allegations such as this one extremely seriously and will take action where necessary.” – the FT

Fox to outline military covenant

Defence Secretary Liam Fox will unveil the new military covenant today – promising extra help for the armed forces after the Government bowed to pressure to enshrine their rights in law. Veterans’ campaigners hailed a “major step forward” yesterday when David Cameron accepted demands for the principle of fair treatment for those who fight for their country to be put on a statutory basis. Specific benefits in areas such as housing, health and education will not be written into law because of fears that could leave the Ministry of Defence “permanently embroiled” in court action. But they will be published and debated annually by parliament. The Armed Forces Bill originally included only an annual review of how the informal agreement was being met – leading to accusations the Prime Minister had broken a pre-election pledge to make it law. Dr Fox said it would now explicitly recognise that “those who are willing to lay down their lives for the country have a right to expect that they will be dealt with properly.- the Independent

Carbon commitment agreed by cabinet

Cabinet ministers have agreed a far-reaching, legally binding “green deal” that will commit the UK to two decades of drastic cuts in carbon emissions. The package will require sweeping changes to domestic life, transport and business and will place Britain at the forefront of the global battle against climate change. The deal was hammered out after tense arguments between ministers who had disagreed over whether the ambitious plans to switch to more green energy were affordable. The row had pitted the energy secretary,Chris Huhne, who strongly backed the plans, against the chancellor, George Osborne, and the business secretary, Vince Cable, who were concerned about the cost and potential impact on the economy. However, after the intervention of David Cameron, Huhne is now expected to tell parliament that agreement has been struck to back the plans in full up to 2027. He will tell MPs that the government will accept the recommendations of the independent committee on climate change for a new carbon budget. The deal puts the UK ahead of any other state in terms of the legal commitments it is making in the battle to curb greenhouse gases. – the Observer

Cameron to push for NHS change

In a keynote speech, the prime minister will detail the “real problems” within the health system, citing cancer survival rates that lag behind the rest of Europe. Striking a personal note, Mr Cameron says he loves the NHS and what it has done for his family, which was why it needs to be improved. However, he will refer to a “vast mailbag” from patients calling for change which he has received throughout his time as an MP as well as prime minister. His speech comes as the issue of the NHS reform threatens to cause deep divisions within the Coalition, with strong opposition to the changes being sought by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. Ministers have been forced to delay plans to open up large swathes of the public sector to private competition amid growing opposition. – the Telegraph

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