x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UK parliament's deputy speaker denies rape allegation

Nigel Evans, the deputy speaker of the UK House of Commons, said he was "incredulous" after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault in connection with allegations by two men.

LONDON // Nigel Evans, the deputy speaker of the UK House of Commons, said he was "incredulous" after he was arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault in connection with allegations by two men.

Mr Evans, 55, a conservative politician who announced he was gay in 2010, was arrested yesterday in his electoral district in Lancashire, northern England, over alleged offences against the men in their twenties between July 2009 and March 2013, local police said in a statement. He was released on bail late in the evening.

"Yesterday I was interviewed by the police concerning two complaints, one of which dates back four years, made by two people who're well known to each other and who until yesterday I regarded as friends," Mr Evans told reporters outside his house today. "The complaints are completely false. I cannot understand why they've been made, especially as I have continued to socialise with one until as recently as last week."

He said his reaction was "a sense of incredulity" and he thanked constituents and colleagues for their support. Defence secretary Philip Hammond, a fellow conservative, told the BBC he was "very shocked" by the allegations against Mr Evans.

"I know Nigel well," Mr Hammond said. "I've known him for years. I'm obviously as shocked as everybody else is by the revelations in this morning's papers."

Evans is one of three deputies to Commons speaker John Bercow who chair debates in Parliament in his absence. Mr Hammond said Mr Evans might have to step aside from this role while the investigation continued.

"Nigel is denying the accusations," Mr Hammond said. "I stick rigidly to the view that we should treat people as innocent until proven guilty, but it is quite difficult to carry out a sensitive and high-profile role while being under this kind of scrutiny."

Foreign secretary William Hague, who described himself as a longstanding friend of Mr Evans, told Sky News: "He's a very popular and well-respected member of parliament. We will all be very sorry to see this situation."