workers at a North-East circuit board manufacturer are among thousands who could recover part of the pensions they lost when the company went bust.

Pensions Minister Malcolm Wicks yesterday announced that employees closest to retirement age when their company went bust would receive up to 80 per cent of their eligible pension.

Among the list of schemes to be redressed is one for workers at the former Viasystems Tyneside plants in Longbenton and South Shields.

The US group opened the factories in 1997 after receiving £12m in Government grants.

But it pulled out of the North-East in September 2001, with the loss of 890 jobs.

Mr Wicks said: "Workers who were a few years from retirement when their company went bust have been hit hardest - losing both their jobs and their pensions with little chance to start again."

The new arrangements, under the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), focus on employees who were within three years of their plan's retirement age on May 14 last year.

But it is only open to workers who subscribed to a fixed list of 380 company pension plans across the UK.

"The list of schemes that we are publishing represents the work done so far," said Mr Wicks.

"I must stress that the door has not been shut on those schemes and their workers who do not appear on this list - we expect to be contacted by more schemes in the coming months.

"We will continue to collect detailed information on the schemes, including, crucially, on the total number and level of individual losses."

The FAS will apply to pension schemes that began winding up from January 1 1997, until the introduction of the Pension Protection Fund. This means that, depending on the pension age of their particular scheme, it should affect members aged between 57 and 73. The money will be paid as a top-up pension rather than through the purchase of an annuity.

Schemes not on the list that consider themselves eligible should contact the Department for Work and Pensions.

A team of officials, based in York, will administer the scheme.