The Conservative MP and deputy speaker of the Commons, Nigel Evans, was arrested yesterday at his cottage in Lancashire on suspicion of rape and sexual assault. Forensic teams searched the property, in the village of Pendleton, and Mr Evans was then questioned at Preston police station before being released on bail.
The 55-year-old MP, who came out as gay in 2010, is accused of raping a man and sexually assaulting a second man between July 2009 and March this year. The attacks are alleged to have taken place against men in their 20s. He has represented the safe Conservative seat of Ribble Valley for 21 years. Both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, were immediately informed of Mr Evans's arrest.
The MP, who also has a home in east London, was born in Swansea, the son of a newsagent, and has held a variety of government posts in the course of his career. He was a parliamentary private secretary to several senior ministers in John Major's government, including employment secretary David Hunt, and William Hague. He has since held a series of senior roles in the party, including vice-chairman in 2004. He is a noted global-warming sceptic, and has been a consistent opponent of the minimum wage.
Councillor Terry Hill, deputy chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, said: "I have just heard the news. I am in complete and utter shock.
"People are innocent until proven guilty, but I'm sure that discussions will take place pretty quickly to decide what reaction [the association] gives."
Brian Binley, Tory MP for Northampton South, said: "I know him to be caring, compassionate and in no way would he inflict himself violently on any other person. I just hope and pray that this thing is cleared up sooner rather than later."
Mr Evans came out as a gay in 2010 in an interview with The Mail on Sunday, saying that he was "tired of living a lie". The MP said he had been persuaded to go public after a conversation at a party with the Coronation Street actress Vicky Entwistle, who lives in his Lancashire constituency. "Vicky and I went for a drink after the party and she said to me, 'You're gay, aren't you?' It's a subject I avoid usually but Vicky is very natural and I told her I was," he said. "I thought to myself, 'I am now telling people I am gay – it's time I did something about it and told everyone.'"
Mr Evans said he had been inspired by the rugby union player Gareth Thomas, a fellow Welshman, who had come out a few months previously. "If people like Gareth, who was married, can come out, it should be no big deal for me," he said. Mr Evans claims that he had been challenged by an unnamed Labour MP to go public with his sexuality, reportedly with the threat that he would be exposed otherwise, before coming out.
The MP's parents ran a corner shop on a council estate in Swansea, South Wales, while he was growing up. Mr Evans joined the Conservative Party aged 17 and served as a local councillor in West Glamorgan. He had lost elections in Swansea West and Pontypridd before taking on his current constituency of Ribble Valley. He lost a by-election there in 1991 but won the seat from the Lib Dems the following year at the general election. He has held the seat comfortably since, and at the last general election increased his majority.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: "We take all allegations of a sexual nature extremely seriously and understand how difficult it can be for alleged victims to have the confidence to come forward."
Mr Evans has been bailed to return before police on 19 June.