By politics.co.uk staff
Outspoken immigration minister Phil Woolas has launched an unprecedented attack on the Office for National Statistics (ONS), accusing it of "playing politics" with immigration data.
The comments, contained in a letter, follow the release of figures by the ONS showing one in nine UK residents was born abroad.
Mr Woolas suggested the decision to release the figures was motivated by a desire to "grab headlines" and show it was a "newly liberated and independent body."
He said it was "at best, naive or, at worst, sinister".
But the Tories stood up for the ONS, with shadow immigration minister Damian Green accusing the government of bullying the agency and attempting to suppress embarrassing information.
The Liberal Democrats took the same line, with home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne saying: "Phil Woolas should get his tanks off the statisticians' lawn.
"Ministers cannot lay into independent statisticians simply because they do not like the figures they produce or dislike the timing of when they are ready."
The spate follows a similar problem last month, when the ONS chose to publish details of foreign workers attaining employment in the UK, with accusations that the decision was calculated to embarrass Gordon Brown.