Nigel Evans explains resignation in personal statement

Personal statements in the house of commons are typically made by ministers who have resigned or an MP who wishes to correct an error he or she has made. They can only be made with the permission of the commons speaker and they are usually heard in silence.

Some end in applause (Robin Cook), some in open conflict with the speaker (Michael Mates took on Betty Boothroyd), and some in murmured hear-hears. One ended, eventually, in the fall of a prime minister after Sir Geoffrey Howe criticised Margaret Thatcher's European policy.

Nigel Evans's personal statement today was unusual for two notable reasons. He was not a minister, but resigned as a deputy speaker; and the reason for his resignation was the decision by the crown prosecution service to charge him with rape and seven other sexual offences.

The Swansea-born former shadow Welsh secretary used his statement to thank his fellow deputy speakers, other MPs, two priests, the speaker himself and even "seasoned, crusty journalists". There was even a reference to Winston Churchill in the four and a half minute speech.

Some Westminster watchers, not all of them crusty, wondered if the tone of the speech was inappropriate for someone facing such serious criminal charges.

Mr Evans stressed that the decision to quit as deputy speaker was his alone. He has consistently denied the allegations against him. He told MPs: "I now have the opportunity to robustly defend my innocence and seek acquittal."

He sat down to the sympathy of his colleagues, many of whom have been shocked by the allegations. Speaker John Bercow told him he had "demonstrated to the satisfaction of colleagues throughout the House that he is competent, fair and good-humoured. He has proven to a loyal and hugely valued member of the chair's team. I am enormously grateful to him and I know the deputy speakers feel the same way."

The tone of the Evans speech was not dissimilar to that of another personal statement made by a Welsh MP 15 years ago, although Ron Davies would argue that he left the cabinet after becoming a victim of crime.

Mr Evans said he would now sit as an independent MP rather than for the party under whose label he was elected. Deputy speakers do not take a party whip, sparing the Conservative leadership the tricky decision of whether to remove it. Mr Evans said he had no intention of asking for the Conservative whip to be restored while legal proceedings continue (a request, I understand, that would have been refused).

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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