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Ex-deputy PM Lord Heseltine questions police treatment of former Liverpool mayor

By PA News

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Tory grandee Lord Heseltine has confronted the Government on the police treatment of the former mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who has been left in limbo after his arrest three years ago.

Mr Anderson was arrested in December 2020 on suspicion to commit bribery and witness intimidation, as part of a wider corruption investigation.

He was suspended from the Labour Party and temporarily stepped down from duties, before announcing that he would not seek re-election in 2021.

Mr Anderson has always denied wrongdoing and he is yet to be charged with any crime, but Merseyside Police say investigations are ongoing.

Former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson (Peter Byrne/PA)
Former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson (Peter Byrne/PA)

Lord Heseltine, former deputy Prime Minister and key figure in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, made a rare intervention in the House of Lords to raise the issue of the delay in Mr Anderson’s case and the “conduct of police” in their treatment of him.

He said: “The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, was arrested on serious charges, including fraud and bribery.

“That was three years, four months ago. He lost his job, his reputation and his income.

“No charge has been laid since then. Does the minister think that’s justice?”

Home Office minister Lord Sharpe of Epsom said: “An investigation involving Mr Anderson remains ongoing and it would, therefore, be inappropriate to comment while that remains the case.

“The police are rightly independent of government and decisions concerning investigations are operational ones for the respective police forces to make.”

Responding to Mr Heseltine, he said: I’m afraid I’m unable to comment on whether this is justice or not.

“The fact is that the force has advised that this investigation remains ongoing and live and that includes ongoing investigation with the Crown Prosecution Service.

“I should also note that Mr Anderson has previously challenged the decision to arrest him by way of judicial review, including an appeal and was unsuccessful in the courts, and since then neither he nor anyone acting on his behalf has made a complaint to the police.

“However, the force have confirmed that they are seeking to conclude this investigation as expeditiously as possible.”

Lord Heseltine is seen as being instrumental in the regeneration of Liverpool in the 1980s, after the Toxteth riots in 1981, and in 2012 he was awarded the Freedom of Liverpool for his work.

Labour peer and former Unite boss Lord Woodley praised Lord Heseltine as “one of the few Tories whose reputation is still strong in the city of Liverpool following his work after the Toxteth riots all those decades ago”.

Is it not outrageous that, after all this time, this has been hanging over someone and their family and the expedition of this case is the issue raised, not whether it is right or wrong?
Lord Alton

He added that Mr Anderson is a personal friend, and said: “He’s a man who has been destroyed. His reputation has been completely and totally destroyed, and everything that goes with it, having not been charged with a single thing.

“It reminds me of Sir Cliff Richard. Don’t start giving allegations across anywhere to anyone if you haven’t got proof and you can’t substantiate what you’re saying.

“It’s an absolute disgrace what’s happened to this man.”

Independent crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool, who served as an MP in Liverpool for 18 years, asked the minister to “reflect on the words of the Liverpool-born Prime Minister William Gladstone, who said justice delayed is justice denied”.

He asked: “Is it not outrageous that, after all this time, this has been hanging over someone and their family and the expedition of this case is the issue raised, not whether it is right or wrong?”

“As far as the politics of Liverpool is concerned, it does not help politics or good governance for a case to fester like this for so long, undoing some of the achievements of Lord Heseltine, who came to the city of Liverpool in 1981 and said, rightly, that he didn’t know that conditions such as those existed in this country, as secretary of state for the environment, and he vowed to do something about it, working across the political divide.

“Anything that impedes those achievements would, I think, be a very negative thing for Liverpool and the country.”

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