Chris Huhne: Speeding claims 'incorrect'

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Indy Politics

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne today dismissed claims that he persuaded somebody else to take speeding penalty points on his behalf as "simply incorrect".

The Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister declared that the decision by Essex police to look into the allegations would "draw a line under the matter".

Downing Street said earlier that Prime Minister David Cameron retained confidence in Mr Huhne.

"All I want to say is that these allegations are simply incorrect," Mr Huhne told the BBC News Channel.

"They've been made before and they've been shown to be untrue, and I very much welcome the referral to the police as it will draw a line under the matter."

He added: "I don't want to say anything more than that, I think the police can get to the bottom of this."

Essex Police said today it was reviewing a formal complaint by Labour MP Simon Danczuk before deciding whether to launch a full investigation into the claims.

Detective Superintendent Tim Wills said an investigation would not be formally launched "until our inquiries show that an offence has been committed".

"This is the work that my team and I will be carrying out this week," he said.

Allegations surfaced just over a week ago that, in 2003, Mr Huhne asked another person to take his penalty points for a speeding offence.

Newspaper reports today named his estranged wife Vicky Pryce as the person who accepted the points.

The claims date back to the time when Mr Huhne was an MEP before he became the Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh.

He was said to have been facing a driving ban if he clocked up any more points, which would have made it difficult for him to get around at a time when he was hoping to become an MP.

Ms Pryce was previously quoted by the Sunday Times as saying Mr Huhne had asked somebody else to accept the penalty points on his behalf, adding that he did drive "a bit like a maniac".

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday published details of what they said was a telephone conversation between Mr Huhne and another person apparently discussing the case.

Mr Huhne is quoted as saying: "If I were you ... do not talk. I would have thought you would not want to talk."

He is then quoted as saying: "There is no evidence for this story unless you give it some legs by saying something. The last thing you want is a half-baked story saying you've taken points for me."

Asked whether Mr Cameron had full confidence in Mr Huhne, the Prime Minister's spokesman said today: "Yes, he does."

He also indicated that even if police did launch an investigation, Mr Huhne could retain his Cabinet post while it was carried out.

"It has certainly happened in the past," the spokesman said.

Mr Cameron and Mr Huhne both attended a meeting of the National Security Council on Libya this morning.

The Prime Minister's spokesman would not be drawn on whether they discussed the claims against Mr Huhne, although Mr Cameron - speaking later following a speech on the NHS - said: "He denies the allegations."

Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said he saw no reason for Mr Huhne to stand down, even if the police decided to mount a full criminal investigation.

"If there's an investigation, there's an investigation. But he denies it," he told the BBC2 Daily Politics programme.

"Tony Blair remained prime minister while he was investigated, I imagine Chris Huhne can just about cope with being Energy Secretary."