Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has criticised David Cameron for suggesting that speculation over child abuse allegations involving senior Conservative Party figures could lead to a “witch-hunt” against gay people.

The prime minister made the comments earlier on Thursday during a live interview on ITV’s This Morning.

It was after presenter Phillip Schofield passed him a piece of paper with names of suspected paedophiles on it.

David Cameron refused to look at the list and warned against speculating before saying: “There is a danger, if we’re not careful, that this can turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay.”

In response, Peter Tatchell said: “It is regrettable that David Cameron has inadvertently reinforced the prejudice that associates gay people with child sex abuse. I am sure this was not his intention.

“There is no reason why he should link the current scandals with gay people or warn of an anti-gay witch-hunt. The current investigations concern paedophilia, not homosexuality.

“Most child abuse allegations involve heterosexual men and young girls. Homosexuality and paedophilia are two very different sexual attractions. Gay people are not paedophiles.”

Stonewall, Britain’s largest gay rights charity, also criticised the prime minister’s remarks.

Director of public affairs Ruth Hunt said: “Speculation about the identity of those involved in child abuse which erroneously conflates sexual orientation with paedophilia does nothing to support the victims of abuse and is unequivocally harmful to gay people.

“What is crucial is that victims feel able to come forward, the police are able to investigate all suspects and that those who are responsible are brought to justice.”