An emergency response vehicle kitted out with equipment to deal with the aftermath of a major contamination could be withdrawn from Cambridgeshire, it has been claimed.

The incident response unit is based in St Neots and is one of 22 similar vehicles around the UK that are reportedly being withdrawn on December 31 by the Government following a review.

The response units provide decontamination facilities at incidents where a large number of people may have been exposed to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials, such as in potential terror attacks.

The Labour Party claims that it is the wrong time to be considering the move and would risk national security.

The news came to a light after an information note issued by the Chief Fire Officers Association was leaked.

Showers, protective clothing and detectors are among the equipment on board the vehicles, which are ready to be used at all times by specially-trained firefighters from local brigades.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said: "It cannot possibly be the right time to cut, by a third, our ability to respond to serious terrorist incidents.

"Not only is it the wrong time, but it is even worse that these plans are being hatched in secret, without any public information or consultation.

"Ministers must put these plans on hold immediately and make a statement to Parliament as soon as it returns."

A government spokesman said: "Public safety is our number one priority.

"Research and experience shows that speed is of the essence in dealing with major incidents which is why it is better to issue all front line responders with the training to begin decontamination rather than wait for specialist services to arrive."