UK

Nigel Evans denies rape claim as 'completely false'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNigel Evans: "I'd like to thank my colleagues, friends and members of the public who've expressed their support and, like me, a sense of incredulity."

Deputy House of Commons Speaker Nigel Evans has denied allegations against him as "completely false", after being arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault.

The Tory MP for Ribble Valley in Lancashire, 55, has been questioned about alleged attacks on two men.

But in a statement to journalists on Sunday, Mr Evans expressed his "sense of incredulity at these events".

His solicitor said he did not intend to quit as deputy speaker or as an MP.

The offences were alleged to have taken place between July 2009 and March 2013 in Pendleton, Lancashire, Lancashire Police said.

Mr Evans has been bailed until 19 June.

'Obviously shocked'

Addressing reporters outside his home, he said: "Yesterday I was interviewed by police concerning two complaints. One of which dates back four years made by two people who are well known to each other, and who until yesterday I regarded as friends.

"The complaints are completely false and I cannot understand why they have been made, especially as I have continued to socialise with one as recently as last week."

Speaking again to journalists later, he described the recent events as the "worst 24 hours of my life", aside from the losses of his mother and brother.

But he thanked his friends and supporters for their "amazing and overwhelming" support.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC he was "shocked" by the allegations about Mr Evans.

"I know Nigel well, I have known him for years. I'm obviously as shocked as everybody else is," he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show.

Mr Hammond added it could be "very difficult" for the MP to continue as deputy speaker while the matter was being investigated.

"I think that is essentially a question the speaker will have to consider," he said.

Mr Evans has asked to be excused from chairing any of next week's debates on the Queen's Speech, which are expected to last for several days.

The Speaker's Office said he would be available for other duties but advised that the number of duties in parliament's first week back after recess was in any case limited.

'Shell-shocked'

Mr Evans, MP for Ribble Valley since 1992, was elected one of three Commons deputy speakers three years ago.

In more than two decades in Parliament, the Swansea-born MP - who came out as gay to a Sunday newspaper in 2010 - has held some senior posts in the party.

From 1999 to 2001, he was vice-chairman of the Conservative Party. Then, when Iain Duncan Smith became party leader in 2001, he was promoted to shadow Welsh secretary - a post he held for two years.

The Ribble Valley Conservative Association, which is yet to discuss the situation with Mr Evans, said in a statement it was "shocked" by the arrest. It said Mr Evans was "widely liked and respected" and had "worked tirelessly" for his constituents.

It said: "Everyone accused is innocent until proven guilty and therefore, unless Nigel chooses himself to cease to be our MP, or the electorate vote him out, or justice system intervenes, we expect him to continue as normal to fulfil his duties in representing the people of the Ribble Valley."

The deputy speaker of the house is elected by all the members of the House of Commons.

He or she presides over Commons debates when John Bercow, the current speaker, is not there.

A deputy has the same powers as the speaker when sitting; he or she controls debates and maintains discipline and also has the deciding vote in the case of a tie in the house.

More on this story