Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer has been publicly rebuked by a Government minister after warning that planned spending cuts could not be delivered without increasing the risk of a terrorist attack.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said public servants should not indulge in "shroud waving" and should be concentrating on getting costs down rather than "alarming the public".
The highly public spat erupted after Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner John Yates said counter-terrorism officers would have to make savings in the region of £150 million as part of "eye-watering" Treasury cuts.
He said that shaving 25 per cent from the police budget, as Chancellor George Osborne suggested in his emergency Budget last week, risked weakening defences against al-Qaeda.
His comments were made during a private session at the Association of Chief Police Officers conference in Manchester but details of his speech were disclosed to a newspaper by one of the delegates.
Nevertheless Mr Maude said that it was not appropriate for senior public servants to comment in this way.
"I'd like to avoid public servants doing this kind of shroud-waving in public. There is a special responsibility on all public servants to be really careful what we say and what we do."
However shadow home secretary Alan Johnson said that Mr Yates's remarks had exposed the damage that spending cuts were causing and he accused the coalition Government of being "as soft as a damp marshmallow" on crime.