Deputy House of Commons Speaker and Conservative MP Nigel Evans has been released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of rape. The Ribble Valley MP is alleged to have raped one man and sexually assaulted another between July 2009 and March 2013. Both alleged victims are in their 20s.
Lancashire Police said on Saturday night: "A 55 year old man from Pendleton in Lancashire, arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault has today been released on police bail until 19th June 2013." It added the man was being questioned at a police station in the county.
Evans is expected to make a statement to the press on Sunday morning.
It is understood that Prime Minister David Cameron has been made aware of the arrest. Evans has been MP for the Lancashire constituency since 1992. A popular figure at Westminster, in June 2010 he was elected as one of the three Commons deputy speakers.
Later that year, he came out as gay saying that he was "tired of living a lie". A villager who lives opposite him and who did not want to give her name said: "I am shocked. I like him. He is a good MP and he has done a lot for the Ribble Valley. Obviously he is well known in the village and goes to the local pub a lot."
Another Pendleton resident, who also did not want to give his name, said: "It's unbelievable, I know him very well. He is an excellent person and I would stand by him 100%."
Brian Binley, Tory MP for Northampton South and a friend of Mr Evans, said: "I was just deeply disturbed and shocked. "I've known him ever since I've been in Parliament and I came in in 2005. I consider him to be a very good friend. I know him to be caring, compassionate and in no way would he inflict himself violently on any other person. "He is a good enough friend to have come up last Friday to a fundraiser my partner Sally and I were holding for Macmillan nurses and so I do know him well.
"I just hope and pray that this thing is cleared up sooner rather than later."
Michael Ranson, the chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, said people in the constituency were "completely shell-shocked" at the news. "He is a very popular MP and a very good constituency MP. He's given assistance to a lot of his constituents over many years," he told Sky News. "Everybody's completely shell-shocked."
Evans was a vice chairman of the Conservative Party from 1999 to 2001. When Iain Duncan Smith became party leader in 2001, he was promoted to the shadow cabinet as shadow Welsh secretary - a post he held for two years.
When he came out, Evans told the Mail on Sunday that he been threatened with exposure by political opponents. "I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn't take the risk. I don't want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again," he told the paper. "I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences."
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman 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. "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."