UK - The UK government is to change the administration of the much-criticised Financial Assistance Scheme for wound-up pension funds.

The move follows a review prompted by revelations that the FAS had only made a handful of payments in its first year.

"The review concluded that to speed up payments, a different skill set and a revised approach to gathering data are required," said pensions reform minister James Purnell.

"The skills required to improve these activities exist in the private sector and the Pension Protection Fund." The Department for Work and Pensions would "examine options to bring these skills to the operation as quickly as possible".

And a "number of management and efficiency changes will also need to be made".

The review found that in the longer term responsibility for making FAS payments should move to the Pension Service, which already pays the state pension and other benefits to millions of people.

The government announced an extension of the FAS eligibility last May to include people within 15 years of their occupational pension scheme's normal retirement age.

Purnell said: "We understand how difficult it has been for people who lost pensions as a result of their employer going bust.

"That is why we are extending the FAS with a commitment of more than £2bn over its lifetime - providing help for about 40,000 people."

"The findings will be implemented as a matter of urgency, and I expect the number of payments being made to increase significantly in coming months."

Elsewhere, reports indicated that the deficit on British Airways' pension fund has almost doubled to around £2bn following a new actuarial review by Watson Wyatt.

Both the company and the consulting firm declined to comment.