British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that accusations of paedophilia against senior Conservative politicians risk creating a "witch hunt", particularly against gay people.
Cameron made his comments after being confronted on television with a piece of paper listing names circulating on the internet of Tory politicians possibly involved in child sex-abuse allegations. It was accidentally briefly flashed on air.
Speaking on ITV1's This Morning, Cameron appealed to anybody with information to contact the police but raised concerns over the internet speculation about who may be embroiled in the scandal, dating to the 1970s and '80s.
"I've heard all sorts of names bandied around, and what then tends to happen is everyone sits around and speculates about people, some of whom are alive, some of whom are dead," he told This Morning.
"I do think it's very important that anyone who's got any information about any paedophile, no matter how high up in the country or whether they are alive or dead, go to the police."
The presenter, Phillip Schofield, passed Cameron a piece of paper listing names he had gathered online, asking the prime minister: "You know the names on that piece of paper, will you be speaking to these people?"
Cameron replied: "There is a danger if we are not careful that this can turn into a sort of witch hunt, particularly about people who are gay, and I'm worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now, taking a list of names off the internet."
The claims were "extremely serious" and the government had "moved quickly to try to get to the bottom of what they are", he said.
Allegations that senior Conservative politicians may have been involved in child abuse at children's homes in north Wales triggered two separate inquiries this week. They are the latest in a number of inquiries set up over recent weeks after a slew of claims involving the BBC, care homes and Whitehall surfaced, beginning with revelations about BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Tuesday that Keith Bristow, incoming director general of Britain's new National Crime Agency, would head a team looking at how police in north Wales investigated allegations of child abuse in the 1970s and '80s, amid claims that they failed to take complaints seriously. A High Court judge, Mrs Justice Julia Wendy Macur, would examine the scope and conduct of the previous Waterhouse inquiry into the abuse.
One of the main issues will be why 28 alleged abusers, including an influential ally of former prime minster Margaret Thatcher, were identified during the inquiry but had their names protected.
Former children's minister Tim Loughton yesterday used an open letter to Cameron to urge him to launch a single, wide-ranging judicial inquiry into child abuse for fear of "drowning" in separate inquiries, "which now run to double figures". The Conservative MP said it was time to set up an overarching inquiry "into what went wrong across a whole range of institutions".
Cameron did not rule out one "mega-inquiry" further down the line, but said he was interested in getting the information in the quickest way possible. He told This Morning: "The real question is would that help us get to the truth quickly. The idea that if you had one mega-inquiry that you would speed everything up, I'm not sure it's true. I don't rule out taking further steps. I want the government to be absolutely on top of this. I don't want anything to be covered up."