A lengthy hold-up to a gross misconduct inquiry which means a former chief constable is “not taken to task” will “no longer wash”, the Government has been told at Westminster.

Frustration was again vented in Parliament over the long-delayed investigation into Mike Veale, as a Home Office minister insisted the administration was powerless to act.

In cryptic remarks, Tory frontbencher Lord Sharpe of Epsom told peers there were reasons for the postponement, but he was unable to reveal what they were.

Mr Veale, who led a controversial inquiry into sex abuse claims against the late prime minister Sir Edward Heath when he was in charge of Wiltshire Police, is accused of breaching “standards of professional behaviour” during his time with Cleveland Police.

Mr Veale stepped down as the northern force’s chief constable in 2019.

Parliament heard the misconduct hearing against Mr Veale was yet to start, despite being announced in August 2021.

While proceedings must usually start within 100 days, the legally qualified chair in charge of the process may extend the period if “they consider it is in the interests of justice to do so”.

In the meantime, Mr Veale had been at the centre of continuing controversy in serving as an adviser to Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Rupert Matthews.

Mr Veale recently stepped down as chief executive of the PCC’s office just two months after being appointed, with Mr Matthews citing “continued negative media coverage”.

Responding to a question in Parliament, Lord Sharpe said the Government had been in correspondence with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, who had “sought clarification on the management and extension of misconduct hearings”.

Pressing the minister, Tory former cabinet minister John Gummer, who sits in the upper chamber as Lord Deben, said: “There is very considerable unhappiness about this whole story.

“I understand how difficult it is for him, but frankly it will no longer wash that a particular individual, who has behaved in way as far, as one can see, which is wholly unsatisfactory just is not taken to task.

“Would he please agree to look again at this and find an answer for those of us who have been pressing now for many years?”

Lord Sharpe said: “I completely accept his unhappiness and possibly share it myself as I have to answer this question on a regular basis.

“Unfortunately, the Government has no powers to intervene over the misconduct process.

“There are reasons why it has been held up and I cannot say them.”

Conservative peer Lord Lexden said: “For many months through many questions I have been trying to find out why a police gross misconduct hearing in Cleveland announced in August 2021 has still not started.

“A former chief constable, Mike Veale, a man dogged by controversy to put it politely since he vilified Sir Edward Heath several years ago is due to appear at this hearing.”

He added: “Things often proceed far too slowly where police misconduct is concerned but this must surely be a record.”

Lord Sharpe said: “The Cleveland PCC has no power over the legally qualified chair except in as much as that he appoints him or her.

“The legally qualified chair must commence a hearing within 100 days of an officer being provided a notice referring them to proceedings, but may extend this period where they consider it is in the interests of justice to do so.

“That is the case here and I am afraid as I have said many times from the despatch box, beyond that I really cannot go.”

Tory former MP Lord Cormack said: “Month after month, year after year, ministers stand at that despatch box and give wholly unsatisfactory answers. There is deep concern.”

Referring to a character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Lord Cormack said: “If the rules prevent the minister giving a satisfactory answer one is tempted to quote Mr Bumble ‘If the law says that, the law is an ass’.

“Will he try and so something so when he comes to the despatch box next time he can give a sensible meaningful answer?”

Lord Sharpe said: “I am sorry he finds it unsatisfactory, but I think it would be unsatisfactory of me to stand here and make a comment that might prejudice a judicial inquiry. I am not going to do that.”