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Lloyd's to provide 440m pounds of assistance

ALMOST pounds 440m of financial help is to be provided by the authorities of Lloyd's, the insurance market, in an effort to help thousands of underwriting members to stave off financial ruin and allow them to continue to underwrite in the market.

The move comes as Lloyd's is about to report losses of up to pounds 2.8bn for its 1990 underwriting account, after reporting losses of more than pounds 2.5bn in two previous accounts.

At an emotional three-and-a-half-hour meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in London, during which there was a minute's silence for the 30 underwriting members said to have committed suicide because of the losses, David Rowland, Lloyd's chairman, tried to rally support among 2,500 underwriting members present for radical reform of the market.

Mr Rowland said he was looking for a way to resolve the hundreds of legal actions that have broken out in the wake of the losses. An angry underwriting member told him that legal action is costing the members pounds 120m as they seek to recover money from companies operating at Lloyd's. Peter Middleton, Lloyd's chief executive, said: 'Please, please give peace a chance.'

One member yelled at Mr Rowland: 'You get pounds 500,000 a year. Do something for us.' Another urged Mr Rowland to peg the salaries of professional underwriters working in the market to no more than pounds 50,000 a year until conditions improve. Some underwriters have been earning between pounds 130,000 and pounds 270,000 a year.