Then Tory chief whip Patrick McLoughlin told a young man it was a “really big ask” for Nigel Evans to stand down as an MP over an “inappropriate sexual approach”, a court heard.
But Mr McLoughlin, who is now the Transport Secretary, said he understood the matter to be a “misunderstanding” not a sexual assault, the jury heard, when told about the incident in July, 2009.
The young Westminster worker claims he went to sleep on the settee at Evans’ home and awoke to find the MP groping his penis, Preston Crown Court heard.
But the jury heard a different account of what the complainant then told senior Tories about the alleged incident at a meeting called to discuss the matter.
Mr McLoughlin and others said the exact details were not given or they understood the complaint was a “drunken pass” and that Evans had got under the blanket with the young man - and not physically groped him.
The complainant is one of seven young men who Evans is alleged to have sexually assaulted. The former deputy speaker of the House of Commons denies the alleged offences.
Today Mr McLoughlin told of the meeting in his Commons office on July 6, 2009, shortly after the incident, with the complainant, John Randall MP, the assistant chief whip and Iain Corby, a Tory research chief.
Mr McLoughlin told the jury: “He had been drinking, Nigel had been drinking and said an incident had taken place. I don’t remember him going into exact details of what the incident was, although he may have done.
“I asked him what he wanted and he said that he wanted Nigel to not stand at the next general election.
“I remember saying that was a really big ask considering what he had said to me but we need to see where things went.
“He did seem to change his mind at some stage, he wanted Nigel to apologise and he would regard that as sufficient.”
Mr McLoughlin, the MP for Derbyshire Dales, said he next spoke to Evans about what had gone on.
“I think Nigel said things had got out of hand and he was apologetic for that.
“I remember saying to Nigel ‘you have got to be careful about how much you drink, you have got to watch your drinking habit’.”
It was an “open secret” in Westminster that Evans was gay but he had not “come out” publicly and his “repressed” sexuality may have had something to do with the incident, the court heard.
Mr McLoughlin continued: “I recall saying to Nigel, I think you should make a public statement about being gay, but that was a matter for Nigel to take himself.”
Mr McLoughlin stressed he told the young man if he wanted to take the matter further with the police he was free to do so but that was a matter for him.
Peter Wright QC, defending Evans, asked the witness about the complainant saying the MP should stand down.
Mr McLoughlin said: “He was asking him to give up his entire Parliamentary career on what I could see was a misunderstanding.
“I thought that was a huge demand given the nature of the complaint.”
Mr Wright said he would put the matter to the witness in “rugby” terms in how whips dealt with MPs.
Mr Wright said: “Some times it’s a yellow card and sometimes it’s a red card in terms of offence?”
Mr McLoughlin replied: “Yes.”
Mr Wright continued: “And in so far as this was concerned, this was a stern talking to?”
Mr McLoughlin said: “Yes. It was the first time Nigel Evans had ever been in my office.”
Mr McLoughlin said he had not been told the allegation against Evans was that he had groped the young man’s penis.
The MP told the jury he was told it was a matter of “inappropriate sexual approach” that had been made and while he could not recall the physical description of what was said to have happened he understood the alleged sexual impropriety was at the bottom end of the scale.
Mr McLoughlin said: “I made it very clear if he wanted to take it further he should talk to the police about it, not expect me to deal with that side of the matter.”
Evans denies one rape, two indecent assaults and six sexual assaults said to have taken place on various dates between 2002 and last year.