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Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Merger doubt

The HBOSplc headquarters on the Mound in Edinburgh
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Saturday, 1 November
at 1204 BST
On Radio 4 and Online

The 12bn merger of Halifax Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB, approved on 31 October, has been called into doubt.

The Office of Fair Trading expressed its concerns that the merger would reduce competition and raise prices in mortgages, small businesses and current accounts.

Despite its fears, Trade Secretary Lord Mandelson approved the merger saying preserving financial stability was more important.

We were joined by Jim Spowart, a Scottish financier, founder of Intelligent Finance and Direct Line, who has been working on a counter bid.

Further information/related stories:

Woman lookinkg in an Estate Agents' window
House prices are back where they were in February 2006
Affordable homes?

The Monetary Policy Committee is widely expected to cut interest rates this week.

Many economists are expecting a full half of one percent reduction.

But will a cut - however radical - be enough to kick start Britain's flagging housing market?

Last week Nationwide reported that house prices in October were down nearly 15% on the year.

Earlier in the week the Bank of England warned that one in nine homeowners could fall into negative equity if prices continue to drop.

Henry Pryor, founder of the property website, and Dr Andrew Lilico, managing director of consultancy Europe Economics gave us their views.

Further information/related stories:

Child Support Agency sign
The Child Support Agency was founded in 1993
Child maintenance

From 1 November the functions of the Child Support Agency (CSA) formally transfer to a new body - the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

The change is part of a wider shake-up in the way child maintenance is enforced.

At the heart of the new system is the idea that more parents should try to reach voluntary agreements on child maintenance, leaving the the new body - which will have beefed-up powers - to chase the toughest cases of parents who refuse to pay maintenance.

Stephen Geraghty - who was the chief executive of the CSA - is the new child maintenance commissioner at the CMEC.

He told us more about the changes.

Further information/related stories:

Norwhich Union offices
Norwich Union's exit penalties will affect about 1.3 million savers
With profits

Millions of investors who hold "with profits" bonds, endowments or pension policies received more bad news this week.

Standard Life became the latest insurer to impose exit penalties following recent similar moves from Legal and General and Norwich Union.

Bob Howard investigated and we asked David Barral, marketing director at Norwich Union, how the changes would affect policyholders.

Further information/related stories:

FSA logo at their offices in Canary Wharf, London
Most financial advisers are currently funded by commission
Financial advice

How do you get truly independent financial advice?

The Financial Services Authority is currently looking at this and is due to publish its recommendations later this month.

At the heart of the review is the question of whether financial advisers who make their money from commission can provide genuine unbiased guidance to consumers.

We were joined by Andrew Fisher, chief executive of the fees only financial advice firm Towry Law, and Chris Cummings, director general of the Association of Independent Financial Advisers (AIFA), the trade body for independent financial advisers.

Further information/related stories:

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 1 November 2008 at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday 2 November 2008 at 2102 GMT.

External internet links
31 Oct 08 |  Moneybox

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