Folkestone's largest employer has been given a breath of fresh air over the Government's Equalities Bill.

There were fears the bill - which would make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of age - would theaten the existence of SAGA, which employs 3,500 people locally.

But on Wednesday those fears were eased when the House of Lords promised an exemption for holidays.

The company deals exclusively with the over-50s, offering services including holidays and insurance.

Its case had been taken up by Folkestone and Hythe MP Michael Howard who raised the matter in the Commons.

SAGA's head of communications Paul Green said it was the first time the company had faced such a threat and it had been lobbying over the bill for some time.

Speaking before the Lords announcement, he said: "We only exist for the benefit of a certain age group. There is discrimination that works positively, such as offering pensioners' cheaper meals and half-price hair cuts.

"We are serving the needs of the over-50s with better rates and services and offering holidays with people of a similar age. We are looking for a common sense exclusion."

Mr Howard has been backing SAGA and described the Government's stand as "unreasonable".

A spokesman for the Government's Equalities Office said the aim of the bill was to prevent age discrimination out the workplace where people buy goods and services.