British Prime Minister David Cameron warned overnight (NZ time) that speculation about the identity of an unidentified member of his ruling Conservative party accused of sexually abusing children could turn into a witch-hunt against gay people.
Cameron, who leads a troubled two-party coalition, ordered an investigation this week after a victim of child sexual abuse in Wales said a prominent Conservative political figure had abused him during the 1970s.
The claims, which follow the unmasking of late BBC star presenter Jimmy Savile as one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders, have stoked concern that a powerful paedophile ring may have operated in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.
"I have heard all sorts of names bandied around and what then tends to happen is of course that everyone then sits around and speculates about people, some of whom are alive, some of whom are dead," Cameron said during an ITV television interview.
"It is very important that anyone who has got any information about any paedophile no matter how high up in the country go to the police," he said.
Britain's interior minister warned lawmakers this week that if they named suspected child abusers in parliament they risked jeopardising future trials.
MPs benefit from "parliamentary privilege" - meaning they can speak inside parliament freely without fear of legal action on a host of legally sensitive issues that might otherwise attract lawsuits.
Reports of child abuse have provoked fevered speculation on the Internet about the identity of the Conservative figure from the era of Margaret Thatcher, prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
When the ITV interviewer passed Cameron a piece of paper with the names of people identified on the Internet as being alleged child abusers, Cameron said:
"There is a danger if we are not careful that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt particularly against people who are gay."
"I am worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now - giving me a list of names you have taken off the Internet," Cameron said.
The BBC aired a programme last week in which Steven Messham, one of hundreds of victims of sexual abuse at children's care homes in Wales over two decades, said he had been sexually abused by a prominent Conservative political figure.
However, the BBC reporter said he could not name the figure because there was "simply not enough evidence to name names".