It has been confirmed this morning that the ludicrously branded 30 hour “free” childcare offer was all just a big joke that got out of hand. It was only ever meant to be a devious but harmless riddle, without any actual solution, to wind up a chum with a propensity for banging on about his prowess with kakuro, soduku and rubik’s cubes.

“At first it was all really rather amusing watching him running around scratching his head with a tortured expression on his face” scoffed Minister for Cotton Balls and Nappy Filling, Hugh Bottomley-Snotts “but it wore a bit thin after a day or two when he kept coming up with completely ridiculous solutions like charging families extra for doing paperwork and providing take-away breakfasts for parents”. He went on to say that “it all just got out of hand really. His solutions to the impossibly ridiculous conundrum were just becoming really quite preposterous and it became obvious that the poor devil was over-thinking it rather when he called me at 3.20 this morning to say he’d finally worked it out. Terribly farcical state of affairs for the poor chap”.

The victim of this pernicious prank has asked not to be identified and was not available for questioning this morning but a reliable source has revealed that playground japes like this happen all the time in Westminster and that it’s all just a bit of harmless mischief and no real harm is ever intended. When pressed for the actual solution our source could barely betray his mirth “come on dear chap, it was so blatantly obvious from the outset that “free” childcare was never actually meant to be taken literally that nobody with a modicum of sense could ever have believed it could be true”.

The brainteaser therefore remains largely unsolved although one leading expert from the Ministry of Passions and Tempers has suggested that the solution could lie in a mere typing error, where the word “subsidised” was inexplicably substituted with the word “free”.