• Research Briefing

    The demise of the cheque?

    Cheques are an old and familiar form of payment that threatened to come to an end in 2018. this note sets out the reasons why and why the decision was reversed.

  • Research Briefing

    Reforming financial markets III: commodity trading

    This is one of a series of notes which looks at actual or proposed reforms of either certain parts of the financial services sector or reforms of certain activities. The entire sector has received worldwide attention from regulators, governments, consumer and intra-industry and professional groups following the financial crisis which began in 2007. Whilst the 'rescue and recovery' phase of the crisis is (mainly) past, and the consultation and consideration phase nearing its climax, the legislative phase is still to come. This note looks at the arguments surrounding commodity speculation and its impact on the real world of commodity prices. A growing number of economic commentators and charity groups have highlighted what they see as a link between growing and ever more sophisticated forms of financial speculation (distinct from the traditional, real, commodity trading and hedging activities) and the volatility of food and other commodity prices. The statistical evidence from various surveys presents a more mixed picture on the links between speculation and price increases. Financial speculation does appear to make commodity prices more volatile but does not provide much of an explanation for the specific movement of individual prices in the short term. Regulators have their own concerns over the methods used by traders and dealers. Most trades are carried out using derivative swap instruments outside of the more open, transparent regulated exchanges. The note outlines what measures are being promoted to improve the regulation of the financial markets involved with these matters.

  • Research Briefing

    Loans to Ireland Bill. [Bill 125 of 2010-11]

    This paper on the Loans to Ireland Bill has been prepared for the Second Reading Debate on the Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill authorises the Treasury to loan up to £3.25bn to Ireland, and contains an order-making power to increase this limit subject to affirmative procedure in the Commons. It also arranges for six-monthly reporting to Parliament on the status of the loan. All Commons stages were taken on 15 December 2010.

  • Research Briefing

    Savings Account and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill: Committee Stage Report

    The Bill gives effect to decisions made as part of the initial review of public expenditure undertaken soon after the 2010 General Election. This Paper summarises proceedings in the Commons Committee Stage of the Bill. Several amendments proposed but none were successful. The paper complements Research Paper 10/66, which was prepared for the Second Reading of the Bill.

  • Research Briefing

    Equitable Life (Payments) Bill [Bill 62 of 2010-11]

    This paper has been written for the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons. The Bill provides the authority for a payments scheme for eligible former and current Equitable Life policyholders in respect of the consequences of maladministration by regulatory bodies as identified by the Ombudsman and accepted by government. The paper outlines the commercial problems of Equitable Life; the series of investigations into the regulation of its activities; and the work of the office of Sir John Chadwick in devising principles for designing a workable system of payments. The Bill is a short, simple and technical measure. Although the precise shape of the payments scheme is as yet unknown, this Bill provides the authority for money to be paid once it is set up and clarifies the tax treatment of future payments.

  • Research Briefing

    Keydata Investment Services in administration

    Keydata Investment Services was placed into administration by the Financial Services Authority in June 2009. The administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, found a number of serious issues at the company, one of which was that many products sold as ISAs were in fact ineligible for tax-free saving status. More seriously, they subsequently found that income on certain investment products had not been paid in recent months, and, in the case of one type of investment, they had been unable to satisfy themselves as to the safe custody of the underlying assets", and suggested that "the assets have been liquidated and may have been misappropriated".

  • Research Briefing

    Taxpayer direct support to banks

    This Standard Note considers the Government's interventions ("direct support") in four major UK banks, namely Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Lloyds Banking Group (formerly Lloyds TSB and Halifax/Bank of Scotland). It considers the background of the "direct support" in the four banks, the role of the Government-owned UK Financial Investments Ltd in managing the taxpayers stakes in these banks, and the current valuation of these interventions. It also considers when the taxpayers' shareholdings in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group might be sold, and the possible privatisation of Northern Rock, and Bradford and Bingley.