Thousands of workers who lost their pensions when their employers went bust were celebrating last night after the Government unveiled the biggest rescue package of its kind, pledging £2.9 billion to restore their money.
Unions and campaign groups - who have been fighting for five-and-a-half years for the lost savings to be paid - welcomed the move, which will restore 90 per cent of the value of pensions for up to 140,000 workers.
Among the 2,000 victims in the West Midlands were hundreds of workers from Kalamazoo, in Northfield, Birmingham Mint at Hockley, and UEF in Bromsgrove.
Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain said the money, which will mainly come from taxpayers, would deliver justice to workers "cruelly robbed" of their pensions.
Mr Hain said up to 140,000 people would be eligible for extended help under the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), which was set up by the Government to tackle the pensions crisis but was criticised by unions for not going as far as another rescue scheme, the Pension Protection Fund. He added that workers involved had done the right thing by saving for later life, only to see their pensions disappear through no fault of their own.
"Some I have spoken to were within weeks of retirement, having paid their contributions for 30 years or more when they were so cruelly deprived of their pension.
"So I am delighted that we are able to announce a settlement that will provide justice for the 140,000 people affected when their schemes were wound up, including members of schemes where the company is still solvent."
Kalamazoo campaigner Peter Wheeler said: "If we really are going to get 90 per cent of our pensions, this will make a wonderful Christmas present. We need closure on this. There are thousands of people out there who are past retirement age who need this money now."
Community union general secretary Michael Leahy said workers were "ecstatic", but blamed both Labour and Conservative Governments for reacting too slowly to the situation.
Dr Ros Altmann, an independent pensions consultant and former Downing Street adviser who spearheaded the fight for compensation on behalf of pension victims, added: "Finally we have won. I am delighted, these people really deserve it.
"It is not 100 per cent, it is not what the Parliamentary Ombudsman recommended, but it is pretty much on a par with the Pension Protection Fund. It will allow those affected to get their lives back."