Deputy Speaker accused of rape was interviewed four years ago about ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’

Rowena Mason and Steve Swinford — May 6, 2013

The Tory MP, who was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of rape and sexual assault, was accused of making an unwanted advance on a man he had been drinking with in 2009.

He was interviewed by Patrick McLoughlin, the then opposition chief whip who is now Transport Secretary, but the matter was not reported to police by either the Conservatives or the complainant.

According to a friend of Mr Evans, the MP explained to the whips that the matter was a “misunderstanding”. The friend said there was no “verbal warning” but Mr Evans may have received some “friendly advice”.

The complaint was not taken any further. It is understood Mr Evans, 55, and the man who accused him of inappropriate conduct continued to associate with each other afterwards.

Downing Street refused to say whether David Cameron was made aware of the allegations at the time.

Mr Evans has spoken of his “incredulity” about his arrest over an allegation of sexual assault and another of rape between July 2009 and March 2013, both of which he strongly denies.

The MP for Ribble Valley, Lancs, said he could not understand why complaints have been made to police by “two people who are well known to each other and until yesterday, I regarded as friends”.

He added: “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,” he said. “I appreciate the way the police have handled this in such a sensitive manner and I would like to thank my colleagues, friends and members of the public who have expressed their support and, like me, a sense of incredulity at these events.”

Mr Evans revealed in December 2010 that he was homosexual, saying that he was “tired of living a lie”. In an interview at the time, he said: “With my background in South Wales it was hard enough being a Tory, let alone being gay.”

Tory MPs rallied round the deputy speaker as he resisted calls to stand down, after being released on police bail. Mr Evans is expected to return to the House of Commons as usual but has asked to be excused from his ceremonial duties during the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Number 10 has so far remained silent on Mr Evans’s arrest. However, Philip Hammond, a Cabinet minister, said he thought it would be “difficult” for the MP to carry on in his role as Deputy Speaker under such public scrutiny.

Mr Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said: “I stick rigidly to the view that we should treat people as innocent until they are proven guilty but it is quite difficult to carry out a sensitive and high profile role while being under this kind of scrutiny,” he told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary described Mr Evans as a “long-standing friend” and said that MPs of all parties would be “very sorry to see this situation”.

Other Tory MPs said Mr Evans has their backing to continue in the role, which involves helping to keep the Commons debates in order. David Davis, a former Tory leadership candidate and senior MP, said he finds it “impossible to believe the allegation that has been made”.

He said there is no need for the Deputy Speaker to resign over an accusation when he has not been charged, let alone convicted.

Among the MPs supporting Mr Evans was Andrew Bridgen, a Tory who was accused of a sex assault two years ago only for police to drop their inquiries six days later.

“Fortunately in this country we have a rule that says you are innocent until proven guilty and I think that should be maintained,” Mr Bridgen told Sky News. “I personally think that Nigel should be able to continue as Deputy Speaker while the police, quite rightly, carry on with their investigations.”

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “It would inappropriate to comment while there is a police investigation going on.”

Mr McLoughlin also declined to comment. A statement on the Ribble Valley Conservatives Association website said Mr Evans was “widely liked and respected” and it expected him to continue with his duties in the constituency as normal.

“In our democracy 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 the justice system intervenes, we expect him to continue as normal to fulfil his duties in representing the people of the Ribble Valley,” it said.

Lancashire Police said last night: “We take all allegations of a sexual nature extremely seriously and understand how difficult it can be for victims to have the confidence to come forward.

“As a constabulary, we are committed to investigating sexual offences sensitively but robustly recognising the impact that these types of crimes have on victims.”


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