The records of more than 3 million U.K. learner drivers have gone missing from a firm in the US, the government has admitted.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly said that a data security audit in her department had revealed that Pearson Driving Assessments, a U.S. contractor to the Driving Standards Agency had lost a disc containing the records of just over 3 million candidates for the U.K.'s driving theory test.

The records contained on the hard disc included the names and addresses of the test applicants, their telephone numbers and in some cases an email address – but no financial data.

The driving test records cover the period from September 2004 to April 2007 disappeared in May this year.

The government has sought to downplay the incident as minor in comparison with the HMRC breach in which 25 million personal records were lost.

Ms Kelly told the Commons that she had reported it to the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, and he had judged the risks presented by the loss were not "substantial" since bank account details and NI numbers were not included. He said that in the circumstances individual notifications did not need to be sent out.