Nigel Evans MP
Nigel Evans MP

Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Nigel Evans MP has been excused from his ceremonial duties at the Queen's speech on Wednesday after being accused of rape and sexual assault.

The MP for Ribble Valley asked to be excused from chairing the event, and insisted he would not resign from his position.

A number of MPs have expressed their support for Evans, but Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said that it would be "difficult" for him to continue in his role in light of recent events.

This afternoon he told reporters that apart from the recent death of his brother, this had been "the worst 24 hours of my life."

In an earlier statement delivered outside his constituency home in Pendleton, Lancashire, he denied the claims, and described his "sense of incredulity at these events."

Evans, 55, who is on police bail until June 19, 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."

He thanked police for their sensitive handling of the matter, and friends, colleagues and members of the public for their expressions of support.

The offences are alleged to have taken place against two men in their twenties in his constituency in Lancashire between July 2009 and March 2013.

Evans, 55, was arrested early on Saturday morning at his Pendleton home. The house and his car was also searched by officers.

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: "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."

Evans came out as gay in 2010 after the launch of a parliamentary group set up to help MPs and parliamentary staff to be open about their sexuality.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow have been informed of the arrest.

Swansea-born Evans has served as MP for Ribble Valley in Lancashire for more than two decades since first being elected in 1992.

He has also held a number of senior positions in the Conservative Party. Between 1999 and 2001 he served as vice-chairman of the party and was appointed Shadow Welsh Secretary under then Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith in 2001.

Three years ago, he was appointed one of three Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons.