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Page last updated at 06:19 GMT, Friday, 21 December 2012
Today: Friday 21st December

A parliamentary commission says the government's plans to reform Britain's banks may not be enough to prevent another crisis. David Cameron is visiting troops in Afghanistan; he says the "very high price paid" by British forces has led to fewer terrorist plots. And also on the programme, why conifers have become a prickly subject for conservationists.

We are no longer providing clips of every part of the programme but you will be able to listen via the BBC iPlayer .


Business news with Simon Jack with Friday Boss, MasterCard's Marion King.


The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has published its first report, and thinks that the government is right to ring-fence everyday banking services for ordinary households and businesses. Anthony Browne, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association, explains why he welcomes the report.

The prime minister is making a Christmas visit to troops in Afghanistan. The BBC's deputy political editor, James Landale, outlines what David Cameron will be saying.

Business news with Simon Jack.


Brussels sprouts are often associated with digestive wind problems. Today programme science correspondent Tom Feilden reports that it could be that by solving the flatulence associated with the sprout, researchers could blow away the clouds of mistrust hovering over other GM food.

The man who revolutionised house building in the 70s, Sir Lawrie Barratt, has died at his home in Northumberland, aged 85. David Pretty, group chief executive of Barratt until 2006, reflects on his life.

Sports news with Rob Bonnet.

Insurers can no longer offer different products and prices to men and women based on their gender, as the the EU's Gender Directive comes into force today. Paul Lewis, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Moneybox, and Louise Hanson, of the Association of British Insurers, debate the initiative.

For people who believe that, in line with Mayan prophecy, December 21 marks the end of the world. Europe correspondent Duncan Crawford explains why the small town of Bugarach in south west France is one of the places to be.

The paper review.

Scientists are planning a rescue for the ash tree threatened by the chalara fraxinea fungus. Richard Buggs, from Queen Mary University, London, outlines the planned scientific line of defence against the disease.

Thought for the Day with Lord Harries of Pentregarth.

The UN Security Council has authorised military action against rebels who earlier this year occupied the north of the African state of Mali. Michael Quinn, Oxfam country director in Mali, and Andy Morgan, journalist and Mali expert, give their views on the intervention.


The government plans to separate banks' retail businesses from their investment arms "fall well short of what is required", the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has warned. Jon Moulton, venture capitalist and founder of Better Capital, and Andrew Tyrie MP, who chaired the commission, discuss the future of retail banking in the UK.

John Craven, presenter of Countryfile, got himself into hot water recently when he uprooted a sapling conifer in a Welsh wood. Matthew Wilson runs Clifton Nurseries in west London and a regular contributor to Gardeners Question Time on Radio 4, and Roger Ward, who chairs the British Conifer Group of the horticultural trade association, discuss whether the conifer is getting bad press and if they are being misunderstood.


To much of the world, including Britain and the United States, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement is a terrorist organisation. The Today programme's Mike Thomson reports from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on how much we know about Hezbollah and what price it is likely to pay for backing President Assad's crumbling rule in Syria.

The Police Federation has said it is "shocked" by the arrests of two men in connection with an incident at Downing Street involving the former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell. Melanie Simms, associate professor of industrial relations at Warwick University, and Nicholas Jones, veteran journalist and former BBC labour correspondent for many years discuss the power of the Police Federation.

Business news with Simon Jack.


It is that time of year where some families take it upon themselves to send out, not just a nice simple Christmas card, but a whole family newsletter. For anyone who dreads receiving these so-called "round robin" letters, writer Lynne Truss has suggested responding to them in a sarcastic and cynical way. The Today programme is running her Christmas newsletter replies this week. Here is her latest.

Behavioural research suggests economists are less trustworthy than other people. Professor Eli Spiegelman, one of the researchers - themselves economists - explains the findings.

A French psychiatrist whose patient hacked an elderly man to death was found guilty of manslaughter on Tuesday in a ground breaking case that could affect the way patients and health practitioners are treated by the law. Dr Trevor Turner, consultant psychiatrist and former vice-president of the Institute Of Psychiatrists, says that this case is an outrage.

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