Two held on sex abuse suspicion after MP's allegations

LONDON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Police investigating allegations of historic child sex abuse first raised by Labour MP Tom Watson in parliament last year arrested two men on Wednesday on suspicion of sexual offences.

Police said the two unnamed men, one aged 66 from Norfolk and the other aged 70 from East Sussex, were detained by officers from Operation Fernbridge, an inquiry into claims of sexual assault against children at the Elm Guest House and Grafton Close care home in Barnes, West London in the 1980s.

Scotland Yard set up the operation in January after Watson urged police during Prime Minister's questions to investigate claims of a widespread paedophile ring with suspected links to a senior aide of an unnamed former prime minister.

Wednesday's arrests are the first under the operation.

Watson claimed a file of evidence used to convict a man of importing indecent images of children in 1992 contained "clear intelligence" of a sex abuse gang.

"The evidence file ... if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring," he said. "One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.

"The leads were not followed up, but if the file still exists I want to ensure that the Metropolitan police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10."

Police said in a statement on Wednesday the allegations under Operation Fernbridge were initially assessed under Operation Fairbank, which was information passed to police by Watson.

Operation Fernbridge reached the threshold for a criminal investigation. Other matters under Operation Fairbank remain under assessment. (Reporting by Alice Baghdjian; editing by Steve Addison)