Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, has welcomed a police investigation into "simply incorrect" allegations that he persuaded his wife to take speeding penalty points on his behalf.
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By Mark Hughes 1:40PM BST 16 May 2011
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Mr Huhne said he hoped the investigation by Essex police would "draw a line under the matter".
It came after David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said he has "full confidence" in Mr Huhne.
The Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister said: "All I want to say is that these allegations are simply incorrect. 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. I don't want to say anything more than that, I think the police can get to the bottom of this."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said that Mr Huhne had denied the allegations and that Mr Cameron retained confidence in him.
Asked about the allegations against Mr Huhne personally, Mr Cameron, speaking in central London, said: “Chris Huhne has denied that.”
The suggestion that the former Liberal Democrat leadership contender persuaded someone else to accept his speeding points, so he could avoid a driving ban, was first raised publicly by Miss Pryce last week.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt that the person alleged to have taken the points is Miss Pryce herself.
Labour MPs have urged Mr Huhne to stand down from the Cabinet while the allegations are investigated. His resignation would be a significant political blow to the Coalition, which has already had to cope with the loss of the Lib Dem Treasury Secretary David Laws over an expenses scandal.
Mr Huhne left Miss Pryce, his wife of 26 years, in June last year after beginning an affair with Carina Trimingham, a bisexual public relations officer.
The conversation included Mr Huhne telling her: "There is no evidence for this story unless you give it some legs by saying something."
He adds: "The story they are trying to stand up is 'Cabinet Minister persuaded XXX to take points'. The only way they can stand that up is by getting you to talk to them.
"There is simply no other person who could tell them whether it is true or not."
The other person in the conversation refuses to lie for Mr Huhne, saying: "It's one of the things that worried me when you made me take the points."
Detective Superintendent Tim Wills, of Essex police, has been appointed to consider a formal complaint from Labour MP Simon Danczuk over the allegations.
Det Supt Wills said an investigation will 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 added.
The Daily Telegraph asked Miss Pryce whether she was the person who took Mr Huhne's speeding points and whether she was the other person in the recorded phone call. She refused to comment, saying only: "I am not talking to anyone."
The Energy Secretary is known to have confided in Mr Clegg about his ex-wife's claims, explaining that she was "out for revenge" as a result of the bitter end to their marriage.
Mr Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, said last night: "I thought the allegations were of such a serious nature that they warranted further attention.
"The sooner they clear it up either way the better.
"I think it right that if the police launch an investigation then Chris Huhne stands aside as a minister until that investigation has taken place."
Labour sources pointed out that Peter Hain, the former work and pensions secretary, voluntarily stood down after the last Labour deputy leadership contest, while police investigated claims that he had improperly accepted a donation from a third party. He was later cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Until this weekend, police had been unable to act on the claims, which date back to March 12, 2003, because their electronic records do not go further back than 2006.
The alleged speeding offence is reported to have happened in Chelmsford, Essex, when Mr Huhne, then an MEP, was returning from the European Parliament.
It would have attracted a three point penalty and a driving ban for Mr Huhne. It is understood that Miss Pryce, whose divorce from Mr Huhne is to be finalised this week, told a reporter some time ago she agreed to accept the points on behalf of her husband.
When she repeated the claims in two newspapers last weekend, she only said she was “aware that he pressurised people to take his driving licence penalty points”.
To avoid incriminating herself, it is understood the newspapers agreed to imply that the points had been taken by an aide for her husband.
However, the allegations were given fresh impetus yesterday with the emergence of the tape recording and the complaint by Mr Danczuk.
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