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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Government hints at pension help
Bank notes
The UK Government has given its strongest hint yet that it may be about to help people whose company pension schemes have collapsed.

Up to 60,000 people are thought be facing poverty despite a lifetime of saving responsibly for retirement.

Pensions minister Andrew Smith said his department had been examining the "dreadful situation".

The comment comes a day after the prime minister announced the creation of a Pensions Protection Fund.

Mr Smith told BBC News: "It's a dreadful situation they're in, that's why we've been looking so carefully at the extent of the problem and what might be done to resolve it.

"And as soon as we're in a position to report further to parliament, then of course we will do so."

'Doors open'

Meanwhile, fellow Labour MP Derek Wyatt told BBC News that he had been "expecting" news of a development in the saga.

"We'd half been expecting it because five of us saw the prime minister four weeks ago privately," he said.

"We can't tell you what he said, but we left there thinking 'we're nearly there'. So yesterday (Wednesday) he just opened the door slightly more and I guess it'll soon be open for good."

On Wednesday Tony Blair told MPs the government would be setting up a Pensions Protection Fund which would be funded through levies on companies.

The fund would aim to ensure workers do not lose their retirement savings if their company goes bust.

But the scheme will not be operating until early next year, and will not be retrospective.

However, when quizzed about the ex-employees of Cardiff company Allied Steel and Wire he did say the workers were a "special case".

Those steelworkers lost most of their pensions when their company collapsed.

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