Chris Huhne 'asked others to take speeding points': Ex-wife of Climate Change Secretary claims he 'pressurised' people
Outspoken Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne was at the centre of an extraordinary controversy last night over alleged motoring offences.
The Liberal Democrat vehemently denies the claims. His denial came as his former wife Vicky Pryce said Mr Huhne had asked others to take penalty points on his behalf for a speeding offence.
When approached by The Mail on Sunday, Miss Pryce said: ‘I am aware that he pressurised people to take his driving licence penalty points.’
A senior Lib Dem source said: ‘These claims have been made before against Chris and he maintains
that they are completely untrue.’
Rumours suggesting Mr Huhne got someone else to take responsibility for a speeding offence have been circulating in Westminster for months.
The millionaire former banker Mr Huhne has repeatedly denied the allegations. Friends say the claims are part of a smear campaign designed to ruin his political career.
In recent days Mr Huhne has been accused by party critics of plotting to undermine his leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Mr Clegg’s defeat in the referendum on changing the voting system for General Elections, combined with his abysmal ratings, have brought reports that Mr Huhne could mount a leadership challenge – although he has pledged his loyalty to Mr Clegg.
Allies of Mr Huhne say they have been expecting an unfounded attack on his reputation for some time by unnamed ‘political enemies’.
In 2003, Huhne was convicted under the Road Traffic Act 1988 of using a mobile phone while driving his car on a busy London street. Following his conviction, he was banned from driving for three months.
The rumours concern other alleged motoring offences. In one, Mr Huhne is said to have been caught speeding by a camera while driving from London to his Hampshire constituency when he was a Member of the European Parliament.
It was said he later asked a female constituency aide to take the subsequent penalty points on her licence to avoid a driving ban for himself.
When the claim was put to Mr Huhne last year, a spokesman told The Mail on Sunday: ‘These allegations are completely untrue. In 2003 Chris Huhne received a driving ban for maximum points and this is a matter of public record.’
The spokesman said the aide alleged to have taken the points on his behalf ‘did not pass her test until November 4th 2004 and has a completely clean licence with no points recorded’.
Other rumours suggest a second individual was put under pressure to take penalty points on his behalf in connection with a separate alleged motoring offence.Mr Huhne split up with Miss Pryce, a Greek-born economist, after 26 years of marriage last June, just weeks after he entered government with the Coalition.
He had been photographed spending a night in his constituency home with Carina Trimingham, 44, a Doc Marten-wearing former lesbian.
Miss Pryce, 57, who has three children with Mr Huhne and two from a previous marriage, told friends last week that Mr Huhne’s private life was ‘bound to come back to haunt him’.
One friend said: ‘She only had a few minutes to learn about the affair. Straight after announcing it, he went off to the gym.’
Miss Pryce, formerly chief economist in the Government’s Business Department who now works for
a London consultancy, has held meetings with publishers over a tell-all book called Thirty Minutes To Kill The Story – the line Mr Huhne is said to have used before he headed to the gym.
The acrimonious split was particularly embarrassing for the Cabinet Minister – known as ‘Seven-homes Huhne’ due to his extensive property portfolio – because of the gushing manner in which he had described his family life during political campaigns.
In a video statement during the 2007 Liberal Democrat leadership election campaign, Mr Huhne said: ‘Relationships, including particularly family relationships, are actually the most important things in making people happy and fulfilled.’
A year later he described Miss Pryce as ‘a very hard-working and extremely intelligent wife, who manages to earn far more than I do’.
An election flyer distributed in his Eastleigh constituency prior to the General Election in May last year included several photographs of himself with his family members.
His pre-divorce wealth has been estimated at £3.5 million.
There have been reports that Miss Pryce, who is a close political and personal confidante of Mr Huhne’s fellow Liberal Democrat Cabinet Minister Vince Cable, plans to run as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.
Neither Mr Huhne nor his media adviser returned calls from The Mail on Sunday yesterday.