The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, the openly gay Conservative MP Nigel Evans, has said the men who have made rape and sexual assault allegations against him were until yesterday people who he regarded as friends.

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

In a brief and composed appearance before the assembled media this morning, Mr Evans 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…”

Yesterday a police spokesperson said: “A 55-year-old man from Pendleton in Lancashire has today, Saturday, 4 May 2013, been arrested by Lancashire Constabulary on suspicion of rape and sexual assault.

“The man will be interviewed at a police station in Lancashire during the course of the day. The offences are alleged to have been committed in Pendleton between July 2009 and March 2013.

“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.

“We would encourage anyone who has experienced sexual abuse, or who has information about it, to have the confidence to report it to us knowing that we will take it seriously, deal with it sensitively and investigate it thoroughly.”

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.”

“If I was a teenager now, I think the chances of me having found somebody and then staying with them for a long period, I think would have happened. So it has repercussions, the later you leave it.”

“It’s never easy to come out… the older you are, it’s more difficult. Whereas now, I think it’s a lot easier for people to come out as gay as soon as they know they’re gay.”

This weekend’s events have revealed how well regarded Mr Evans is on all sides of the House. It is not known whether he will be returning to Westminster for the State Opening of Parliament next week.

For legal reasons, we do not allow comments on this news story.