The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, the openly gay Conservative MP Nigel Evans, has said his arrest over claims of rape and sexual assault have been the “worst 24 hours of my life”.

Mr Evans was released on bail yesterday after being arrested at his consistency home in Pendleton.

Before going to a local pub in his constituency with close friends, Mr Evans said: “This has been, not with standing the loss of my Mum and the loss of my brother, very recently, the worst 24 hours of my life.

“The one thing that has bolstered me really more than anything else has been the amazing overwhelming support not only of my own village, but also the messages on Facebook and I am so grateful and it is that support that is getting me through this.

“I would like to thank everyone who has sent me a message. I literally do’t have the energy to write back to every single one of them. But I am so grateful from the bottom of my heart and I’d like to say thank you to all of them.”

His friends later posted a photograph of Mr Evans enjoying a pint with the caption “business as usual”.

His office has confirmed that he will return to Westminster as planned this week.

A spokesperson added: “However, as an inevitable added time pressure has been placed upon him at this time, he has asked the Speaker to be excused chairing duties for the debate on the Queen’s Speech, and the Speaker has kindly agreed.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who was himself accused of sexual assault two years ago before inquiries were dropped by the police told Sky News: “Fortunately in this country we have a rule that says you are innocent until proven guilty and I think that should be maintained.

“I personally think that Nigel should be able to continue as Deputy Speaker while the police, quite rightly, carry on with their investigations.”

Earlier today, Mr Evans made a brief and composed appearance before the assembled media and said: “Yesterday, I was interviewed by the police concerning two complaints. One of which dates back four years 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 can not understand why they have been made, especially as I have continued to socialise with one as recently as last week.

“I appreciate the way that the police have handled this in such a sensitive manner and I’d 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.”

Earlier this morning, Mr Evans posted on Facebook: “Thanks for the amazing overwhelming support at this difficult time…”

Mr Evans, who previously voted against gay rights, while in the closet, is now a prominent and passionate supporter of LGBT issues in Parliament. He described supporting Section 28 as his “neanderthal phase.”

In an interview with PinkNews after he came out, Mr Evans said: “I’ve thrown away 35 years of my life.”

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