Huhne's career in the balance as police look into speeding claims

Chris Huhne will attempt to carry on as normal today despite allegations threatening to destroy his political career about a speeding fine that may have been blamed on the wrong driver.

Essex Police confirmed that they have been handed information which could lead to a criminal investigation into the Energy Secretary's past.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of allegations regarding a speeding offence in 2003. This information will be passed to officers who will decide on whether an investigation will be launched. We take allegations such as this one extremely seriously and will take action where necessary."

Today, Mr Huhne will meet other ministers to discuss the Government's ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions, which he has finalised after long and tense negotiations with the Treasury. He plans to deliver a Commons statement tomorrow.

His aides continue to deny the allegation which – if it were true – would destroy any hope he has of replacing Nick Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats. It could also potentially result in him being sent to prison.

It is alleged that when Mr Huhne was sent a form to fill in about an automatic speeding fine he had incurred in March 2003, he entered another person's name instead of his own, to avoid a driving ban.

He has hired an eminent media lawyer, Charlotte Harris of Mishcon de Reya – who played a leading role in exposing the News of the World phone-hacking scandal – to handle the allegations, which Mr Huhne denies.

Two Sunday newspapers published details yesterday of a private telephone conversation that took place a few weeks ago, in which Mr Huhne discussed the speeding fine. Both The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday say they came by the tape legally, and appear to have struck a deal that involves not naming the other person involved in the conversation – evidently someone Mr Huhne knew very well.

Vicky Pryce, the minister's estranged wife, made the original accusation that Mr Huhne had evaded a speeding offence, but did not say who had incurred the fine and penalty points on his behalf. The tape that has been passed to journalists is of a phone call between Mr Huhne and a witness who complained of being under pressure from the media. On the tape, Mr Huhne is reported to have said: "If you don't want anything to get in the paper, don't talk to a journalist."

Later in the conversation, he is heard telling the person on the other end of the line: "There is no way that there is any evidence to this story unless you decide or give some legs to it by saying something. OK?"

The other caller then replies: "I just cannot lie. It's one of the things that always worried me when you made me take them in the first instance." Mr Huhne then objects that it is not "sensible" for him to have "conversations like this over the phone."

At another point in the discussion, which lasted just over 10 minutes, he said: "There's no question of it coming out, because it's simply not true, that's it." This produces the startled reply: "I'm sorry, what? Why are you suddenly saying that?" Mr Huhne then repeats his suggestion that they should meet face to face.

In December 2007, Mr Huhne narrowly lost to Nick Clegg in the contest to be leader of the Liberal Democrats. He is seen as a highly ambitious politician with his eye on Mr Clegg's job, which may have been what motivated his carefully leaked confrontation in Cabinet with the Chancellor, George Osborne, over the conduct of the No2AV campaign earlier this month.

Soon after entering the Cabinet, Mr Huhne's 25-year marriage broke up after he began an affair with his former adviser, Carina Trimingham. He and Ms Pryce have three children.

The Labour MP Simon Danczuk lodged a formal complaint with Essex Police after reading about Mr Huhne and his alleged scheme for averting a speeding fine.

Who's waiting in the wings?

* If Chris Huhne's position in Cabinet were to become untenable but he did not offer to resign, David Cameron could fire him. The Prime Minister has that authority, but would have to take care not to use it in a way that antagonised Liberal Democrats or undermined Nick Clegg.

But Mr Huhne would not be an easy man to replace, because of the complexity of his job. The Foreign Office minister, Jeremy Browne, is said to be the Liberal Democrat the Tories would most like to see in the Cabinet, but not necessarily as Energy Secretary. There might have to be some juggling so that a Tory takes Mr Huhne's place, creating a vacancy for a Liberal Democrat somewhere else.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine