Private debt collectors are to be used to recover money from parents who fail to pay child support, it was reported last night.

The BBC said the debts, worth more than £3 billion on paper, would be sold to private firms to collect.

They would take a share of the collected debt, with the rest handed on in child support payments.

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The chief executive of the much-criticised Child Support Agency Stephen Geraghty is carrying out a review of its operation which is due to be published in the next few weeks.

Reports say Ministers have backed the debt collection move "in principle". But the Department for Work and Pensions said the claims were "pure speculation".

"The report will be published shortly," a spokes-woman said.

"This is pure speculation. We can't get ahead of the review."

It is also thought the new Revenue and Customs agency could take on the task of collecting regular child support payments.

In recent weeks, Ministers have also suggested errant parents who refuse to pay up for their children should be tagged.

The CSA has been dogged by problems since it was set up in 1993, with the result that many lone parents have not received payments they were due.