Deputy speaker backs ‘trusted friend’ Evans
The three deputy speakers of the Commons have joined parliamentary colleagues in giving testimonials to Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans at his rape and sex assault trial.
Evans stood down from his role as deputy speaker after the allegations were levelled against him.
Lindsay Hoyle, Dawn Primarolo and Eleanor Laing, who replaced Evans, were among those who gave character references which were read out at the MP’s trial at Preston Crown Court.
MPs Glenda Jackson, John Whittingdale, Ann Clywd, Liam Fox and Barry Sheerman, ex-MP Ann Widdecombe and several lords also gave testimonials.
A number of Evans’s Ribble Valley constituents also testified, including a local vicar who said he was “shocked” when the MP was charged.
Evans, 56, denies sexually abusing seven young men on various dates between 2002 and last year by using his “powerful” political influence to take advantage of them, often while drunk.
The MP was one of three deputy speakers elected by his parliamentary colleagues in 2010, along with Speaker John Bercow.
Mr Hoyle, who took office at the same time, said in his testimonial that the deputy speakers all supported each other in their office duties.
He said: “I found Nigel to be a dedicated and supportive colleague. I know Nigel is liked and well respected by members across the House, including myself.”
Mrs Primarolo said: “As a member of the deputy speakers team, Nigel has been a kind and considerate colleague. He is a well-liked member of the House of Commons. I found him friendly and helpful to work with.”
Ms Laing said: “He is witty, wise, hard-working and intelligent. I have always valued him as a trusted friend.”
Ms Jackson referred to Evans’s “innate humour” and “sense of fair play” as he excelled in his role as deputy speaker.
Ms Widdecombe said: “I have no hesitation in giving this reference. He has shown himself to be truthful, considerate, kind and gentle. Such qualities at Westminster are not universal.”
The Rev Andy Froud, vicar of St Mary Magdalene CE Church in Clitheroe, said Evans was known locally as “a hard-working MP who will champion the cause of constituents”.
He added: “I was shocked by the charges brought against him.”
Evans has pleaded not guilty to one rape, two indecent assaults, five sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault.