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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
PM's 'solution' to ASW pension crisis
ASW furnace in Cardiff
Hundreds of ASW steelworkers lost their pensions
There is fresh hope for hundreds of former steelworkers in Cardiff who lost most of their pensions when their company collapsed.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs on Wednesday he hoped to find a solution for the ex-employees of Allied Steel and Wire (ASW).

Mr Blair told the Commons the workers were a "special case" .

His words have encouraged those facing a bleak retirement as a result of the ASW crisis.

The UK Government had already planned new laws to stop other worker losing their pensions in the same way - but this would not be backdated to compensate the former ASW staff.

If we don't get what we are owed in full, then the fight carries on
Former ASW worker, John Benson

However, Mr Blair, responding to a question from Labour MP Tony Lloyd during Prime Ministers' question time on Wednesday, said that ministers hope to come forward with a solution.

Mr Blair said: "The issue...is one which we are considering actively at the moment.

"That is the position of people in circumstances where they have been forced to contribute to an occupational pension and then find that all the money they've invested yields absolutely nothing for them.

"I think that is a very particular and special case and we are looking at what we can do.

John Benson
Former ASW worker John Benson says the fight over pensions has caused a lot of stress.

"I hope very much in the context of the debate at the moment on the pension protection issues and legislation we will be able to come forward with a solution."

'Winning fight'

Around 800 ASW workers in Cardiff lost most of their occupational pensions, as well as their jobs, when the firm collapsed on July 2002.

Former ASW worker John Benson, who lost 90% of his pension fund, said he was encouraged by the Prime Minister's statement.

He said: "I think it's fantastic news.

"All I hope is that we are eventually paid the pensions we were due and don't come up with a percentage figure.

"If we don't get what we are owed in full, then the fight carries on."

Mr Benson, who paid into the ASW pension fund for 28 years before losing his job nearly two years ago, added: "It seems as if we are winning the fight.

"It has taken long time and caused a lot of stress."

Roy Rickhuss, Welsh Divisional Officer for the ISTC steel union, said he hoped the Pensions Bill would be amended to make the new pensions protection fund retrospective.

He added: "On the face of it, it's good news.

"There's still a long way to go and we want to see any possible solutions Mr Blair can come up with.

"This has been going on for two years and until we can see the government's proposals, the campaign will continue."


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