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.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week