Lloyd's chief says pension help on the way

David Rowland, chairman of Lloyd's, yesterday pledged that new proposals to help the hardest hit members of the market with the equivalent of a pension were definitely in the pipeline.

He said: "We have made a commitment and I am confident we will discharge it."

In an interview with the Independent, Mr Rowland made clear that the plan did not depend - as widely assumed - on successful extraction of additional money from Lloyd's agents.

The pounds 3.1bn rescue offer Lloyd's is to put to members in the summer is largely about offering credits to members so they could write off their debts, Mr Rowland said.

"If you are 70 years old and you have paid all your losses and you haven't got anything left and you cannot afford even a minimum standard of living, pounds 100,000 in credits is not actually going to help. We felt very strongly that it was desirable to offer some minimum level of support.''

Lloyd's is also negotiating with agents to improve their pounds 200m contribution to the rescue plan. "The fund we put together has still got some bits and pieces around the edges to be completed," Mr Rowland said. But whatever the outcome, the hardest hit members seem certain to receive special help.

He gave no figures, but the cost of the pension plan is reputed to be less than pounds 50m. Pressure groups representing Lloyd's names believe the benefits will be in line with those that would have been received under the former hardship fund.

Several have made it a condition of voting in favour of the offer when it is put to names in July and August.

Mr Rowland refused to say the offer would definitely succeed, but he believed improvements in the offer already announced made a "yes" substantially more likely. Asked whether Lloyd's would go ahead without the approval of US names, he said: "I can't give you a categorical answer. I have absolute determination that this is so much in the interests of the members, including the North American members, that we will find a way."

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