But Evans, 55, who resigned on Tuesday, said he would robustly defend himself and refused to step down as an independent Conservative MP. The charges were announced after he was arrested and questioned for a third time on Tuesday. He said afterwards: "I have today answered bail following complaints I said were incredulous."

"Whilst I'm saddened this case has not been closed today, I am certain of two things: firstly that I am innocent; and secondly, that my innocence will be demonstrated. Having informed my fellow deputy speakers, Lindsay Hoyle and Dawn Primarolo, my association chairman and my staff, I can confirm I will now resign as Deputy Speaker. Once again I thank my local association, my friends, my colleagues and even people I have never met for their support which has been deeply appreciated at this time. May I reassure everyone that I will robustly defend my innocence,” he said.

Evans will appear before Preston Magistrates' Court on next Wednesday. He stood aside from his deputy speaker's post when he was first arrested in May and had told colleagues he would quit the post if he was charged. There will now be an election where MPs will choose a replacement, expected to be another Conservative.

MPs said that possible candidates would include Sir Roger Gale and Brian, according to The Daily Telegraph, Binley, both senior Tories. Charles Walker, another Conservative MP, could also stand. The two counts of indecent assault Evans faces are alleged to have happened between 2002 and 2004.

The sexual assaults allegedly happened between 2009 and 2013, while the rape was alleged to have happened between March and April 2013. Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said, "After careful consideration, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to prosecute Mr Evans."

The MP was one of three deputy speakers elected in 2010. Later that year he announced that he was homosexual, saying he was "tired of living a lie."

He served as vice chairman of the Conservative Party from 1999 to 2001 and 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. He has held his Lancashire seat since 1992, and built up a majority of more than 14,000, making it a safe Conservative seat.

A conviction would almost certainly force him to resign it, however, and the UK Independence Party has suggested it would hope to do well in any by-election.

(Agencies)

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