The publication of Chris Huhne’s ex-wife’s driving licence heaps more pressure on the Energy Secretary. Even Lib Dems are calling for him to stand down, as Victoria Macdonald discovers.
Beleaguered Cabinet minister Chris Huhne is under renewed pressure after a newspaper published details of his ex-wife’s driving licence.
The Energy Secretary is due to be interviewed this week by Essex police over allegations that he persuaded Vicky Pryce to to take the blame for a speeding offence accept to escape a driving ban.
Miss Pryce, a Greek-born economist, filed for divorce last year after Mr Huhne admitted having an affair with an aide, Carina Trimingham.
The Mail on Sunday has published a photograph of Ms Pryce’s licence which shows that three points were added for a speeding offence on 12 March 2003 – the date Mr Huhne’s car is alleged to have been caught by a speed camera.
The leading Liberal Democrat, who was an MEP at the time, has denied claims that he was really in the driving seat at the time but asked Ms Pryce to admit the offence.
David Cameron should set up an independent investigation to establish what had happened. Tessa Jowell
It is alleged that he was returning from Stansted Airport to his home in Clapham, south London, having flown in from the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Ms Pryce’s licence is marked with the court code 1629, which, the newspaper says shows that the offence was dealt with by Southend Magistrates’ Court in Essex which covers the road network between Stansted and London.
It is reported that Ms Pryce spent much of the day in central London – attending a conference in the morning and an event at the London School of Economics where she stayed for a dinner until after 10pm.
Last week two newspapers published details of what was said to be a taped telephone conversation between Mr Huhne and Ms Pryce discussing the case.
In the media those things are being questioned, but the police are looking into it and so what can we do? We have to let that process take place. William Hague
Mr Huhne reportedly urged her not to discuss the allegations with journalists, saying that there was no evidence to support the story “unless you give it some legs by saying something”.
Mr Huhne’s aides have refused to comment on claims that he is set to tell detectives that he could not say “definitely” that he was not driving as he could not remember what he was doing on the day.
He had previously said the allegations were “simply incorrect”, adding that he welcomed the prospect of a police investigation as it would clear his name.
Asked whether Mr Huhne should quit, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “It’s his decision”, adding: “In the media those things are being questioned, but the police are looking into it and so what can we do? We have to let that process take place.”
Earlier this week, Conservative Party vice-chairman said: “Any minister under police investigation is a problem for the Government”.
“I think what’s important is that we wait until any minister is actually charged. When they are charged then obviously it’s right that minister has to step aside. He hasn’t been charged.”
Aides to Nick Clegg, Mr Huhne’s former rival for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, have said he has the Deputy Prime Minister’s full support.
Labour have so far stopped short of calling for Mr Huhne to quit. Shadow minister Tessa Jowell said: “David Cameron should set up an independent investigation to establish what had happened.
“That is what the Prime Minister should be doing. He should be getting a proper investigation independently to establish what the facts were and in the light of the facts decide the best course of action.”
There was fresh embarrassment for Mr Huhne following the disclosure that he faces a complaint about his general election expenses.
Two ex-Lib Dem councillors in his Eastleigh constituency have submitted a complaint to the official elections watchdog alleging he made a “false declaration” of his expenses.
The allegation is based on a recording of a local party meeting where treasurer Anne Winstanley is heard saying that the elections “have cost more than we declared”.
Mr Huhne strongly denies the charge. Aides said he was confident the claims would be dismissed, arguing that they were was based on a misunderstanding of was said at the meeting.
Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Victoria Macdonald writes:
"The Energy Secretary continues to deny that he broke the law by asking someone to take speeding offence points. He will be speaking to; the police in the next few days.
"It is also understood that he may not have access to records of where he was on the day the alleged speeding offence was said to have taken place.
"It has been confirmed that a complaint has been made about Mr Huhne's election expenses with claims that he made a "false declaration".
"One of the complainants, a former Lib-Dem councillor, Glynn Davies-Dear, told Channel 4 News that he would be providing the commission with "evidence" in the coming week. The allegation was strongly denied by Mr Huhne.
"There are now some in the Liberal Democrat Party who believe that Mr Huhne should consider standing down and that if he was cleared by police then he would be able to re-enter Government "in due course". In an opinion piece written for Liberal Democrat Voice, an online blog, one member said that he he chose not to stand down then "Clegg should show that he will put the interests of the Party first and fire him".