GCHQ has confirmed that it awards bonuses to its IT security experts in a bid to stop staff leaving for large technology companies such as Google.

According to the jobs section of the GCHQ website, a cyber security specialist can earn a salary of between £25,446 and £31,152.

Although the UK communications spying centre declined to comment on the individual amounts that had been awarded, a spokesperson said that reports of "tens of thousands of pounds" bonuses were "an exaggeration".

"Retention payments are made to individuals because of their specialist skills," the GCHQ spokesperson said.

"These systems of payments have been authorised by the appropriate government authorities."

The spokesperson cited internet security and other specialist staff as those who receive retention payments, or bonuses.

However, GCHQ has admitted that it would never be able to compete with high-tech companies on salary alone.

In its response to the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee 2011, the government said: "Experienced internet specialists are highly prized by both government and industry and GCHQ recognises that it therefore needs to maintain its competitiveness in the market place.

"It is for this reason that GCHQ already uses a retention payment system which is reviewed from time to time to ensure that it remains competitive. Those bonuses and the unique appeal of the GCHQ mission help to keep leaver rates low, but GCHQ is also considering other measures to attract and retain suitably skilled staff in greater numbers."