The cash-strapped Labour Government has announced that it plans to sell financial information about child support claimants to the highest bidder to help plug a £2 billion deficit in the Treasury coffers.
Earlier this week, the Government came under fire when a civil servant who downloaded the sensitive information wrote it to a CD ROM and lost it. Civil service unions have denied that their member was at fault, blaming the blunder on systemic failures within the Civil Service, for which the civil servant who downloaded and lost the data was not to blame.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, responded to both the unions and the Opposition in a statement denying that the Government was to blame and further denying that there was any risk of identity theft. Speaking from a cyber café in downtown Lagos, Nigeria, with an unusual African-sounding accent apparently caused by a recent cold, he said:
"Greetings, good people of the Western world. I have decided to sell all of the data about your child benefit claims to a consortium of highest bidders to raise money for the Government."
The Opposition was quick to criticise the Government's decision. Tory leader David Cameron, speaking from an Internet café in Mumbai, India, retaliated:
"Excuse please, this is not being the right thing to do. This is not how government should be behaving."