Sunday 26 January 2020

Rape-accused MP quizzed by party four years ago

British Conservative MP and Deputy House of Commons Speaker Nigel Evans leaves after a news conference in Pendleton, northern England May 5, 2013.
British Conservative MP and Deputy House of Commons Speaker Nigel Evans leaves after a news conference in Pendleton, northern England May 5, 2013.

Rowena Mason and Steven Swinford

DEPUTY Speaker of the British House of Commons Nigel Evans was interviewed by senior Conservatives four years ago about an allegation of "inappropriate sexual behaviour".

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 last night refused to say whether Prime Minister David Cameron was made aware of the allegations at the time.

Mr Evans yesterday spoke for the first time 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, in Lancashire, said he could not understand why complaints have been made to the 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."

Background

Mr Evans revealed in December 2010 that he was homosexual, saying 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.

Other Tory MPs said Mr Evans has their backing to continue in the role, which involves helping to keep the House of Commons debates in order.

David Davis, a former Tory leadership candidate and senior MP, said he found it "impossible to believe the allegation that has been made". He said there was no need for Mr Evans to resign over an accusation when Mr Evans has not been charged, let alone convicted.

Among the MPs supporting Mr Evans was Tory Andrew Bridgen 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," he said.

Last night, a Conservative Party spokesman said: "It would be inappropriate to comment while there is a police investigation going on."

Mr McLoughlin also declined to comment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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