The European committee that has been convened to examine the near-collapse of the insurer Equitable Life will now see its term extended by a further three months to April 2007.

MEPs in Strasbourg voted for the extension in the wake of news from the UK that its parliamentary ombudsman, Ann Abrahams, is also to delay the release of her concurrent, but separate, investigation into regulatory failings linked to Equitable Life.

Equitable Life was forced to cancel the policies of thousands of policyholders as it came to the brink of bankruptcy in 2000, meaning many pensioners in the UK, Ireland and Germany lost much of their savings. An investigation by Lord Penrose found the insurer was to blame for the crisis due to the overly generous payouts it had made in previous years.

However the EU’s probe will focus on whether British regulators correctly and fully implemented European directives concerning insurers, and whether application of these guidelines could have averted the scandal.