The head of the civil service has launched a mole-hunt after the leak of lists of around 180 public bodies apparently facing abolition in a "bonfire of the quangos".
The lists, obtained by the Daily Telegraph and BBC, indicated that organisations ranging from the Health Protection Agency to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Commission for Integrated Transport and School Food Trust are in line for the axe.
But Cabinet minister Eric Pickles suggested they were out of date, saying the Government's plans "may have moved on" since it was drawn up.
"We did say we were going to reduce the number of quangos," the Communities Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"We will be making an announcement in due course. It's a bit dated, that document. I think things may have moved on."
Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell ordered an immediate investigation into the leak. A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We deeply regret any extra uncertainty for employees that this irresponsible leak has caused."
A document, dated August 26 and seen by the BBC's Politics Show, named 180 quangos which would be abolished, 124 to be merged, 56 to be retained "with substantial reform" and 282 to be preserved. The fate of a further 100 had not yet been decided.
Meanwhile, a separate - but very similar - undated list obtained by the Telegraph put the figures at 177 abolitions, four privatisations, 129 mergers, 350 reprieves and 94 yet to be decided.
In a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said that the changes "are intended primarily to increase accountability, but will also support the aims of the spending review by reducing costs and support our ambitions for a Big Society by encouraging alternative devolved or non-state delivery models".
If implemented, the cull of public bodies will cost thousands of jobs and spark enormous political controversy, with critics accusing the Government of removing vital protections for the public.