Soon after the charges were announced, Chris Huhne resigned from his position as Energy Secretary

Huhne and his wife Vicky Pryce now face a criminal trial over allegations that they conspired to pervert the course of justice. The offence carries a maximum life sentence.

In a statement, Huhne said: “I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight them in the courts and I am confident a jury will agree. So as to avoid any distraction to my official duties or my trial defence, I am standing down as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I will of course continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh. That is all I have to say.”

The alleged offence is said to have taken place in March 2003 when Huhne apparently asked his then-wife Vicky Pryce to take some speeding points for him so he could avoid a driving ban.

The allegations came to light in 2010 when Pryce told the Sunday Times Huhne had asked someone “close to him” to take the points.

In a statement on live television, Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against both Mr Huhne and Miss Pryce for perverting the course of justice.

“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.”