Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, faces an extraordinary rebellion among fellow ministers over her refusal to pay the police pay deal in full, a senior Labour MP has disclosed.
Angry rank and file officers meet in London today to debate overturning the ban that stops the police from being able to strike.
Tensions are running high over Ms Smith's decision to delay implementing their 2.5 per cent pay rise, in effect cutting it to 1.9 per cent.
The decision was savaged by MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, and it emerged that many ministers are also worried by the prospect of confrontation with the police.
Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said members of the Government had queued up to tell him that they privately supported a Commons motion condemning the Government over police pay.
"Ten ministers spoke to me, all concerned, and said they had spoken to Jacqui. They came to me and said they would really like to sign the motion," he said. Mr Vaz said Tony McNulty, the Police minister, had been "surrounded" by Labour MPs in the Commons tea room calling for a rethink.
Gordon Brown is insisting public sector pay deals are staged this year in order to keep a grip on inflation.
But Labour committee members made clear their dismay over the looming conflict with the police.
Martin Salter, the MP for Reading West, said Home Counties forces were already "haemorrhaging" officers to the Metropolitan Police and warned: "This will exacerbate the situation. You should tell the Treasury to back off."
Janet Dean, the MP for Burton, asked: "Is it really worth the loss of goodwill for a one-off saving?"
Ms Smith insisted the police were being offered more money than most public sector workers, but said she had to bear in mind the impact of pay deals on overall spending.
Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the committee: "I feel we are not giving sufficient weight to the fact that cops don't enjoy the ordinary rights of other workers in terms of industrial action." He added: "I would not underestimate the tensions and feelings people have in terms of feeling let down. Cops are pretty exercised and angry over this."
Pressure is also growing on Ms Smith over moves to allow terror suspects to be questioned for up to 42 days before being charged. But she said she believed the Government could win enough support to push through the change.Reuse content