Yorkshire fury as bank tries to take Halifax out of HBOS

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The Independent Online

A Yorkshire MP has sworn to block attempts by HBOS, the banking giant created from the merger of Halifax and Bank of Scotland, to restructure itself, claiming it will lead to a Scottish takeover of the group.

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, objects to a private Bill being brought to Parliament by the bank under which HBOS will transfer its separate banking licences into one held under the Bank of Scotland name. Mr Sheerman said: "In 2001 when the merger took place, we were told it was a merger of equals. It brought together the Halifax and Leeds building societies and Halifax Bank. They were formed on the blood, sweat and tears of a hundred years of ordinary men and women in Yorkshire.

"This Bill will renege on the promises we were given and will cut away all Yorkshire links. It means the Bank of Scotland will take over all the assets. We will oppose this Bill and stop it in its tracks. We hope that people will sign a petition in the next 20 days to show they are outraged at what is being proposed."

The Bill provides for the transfer to Bank of Scotland of the undertakings of Capital Bank, Halifax and HBOS Treasury Services, which are all subsidiaries of HBOS. It requires parliamentary approval because Bank of Scotland was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1695.

A spokesman for HBOS said the private Bill was a technicality to reduce the number of banking licences held by the group, and it would have no impact on the bank or its customers, other than saving regulatory costs.

He said: "The HBOS group has four banking licences, and the group needs only one. To change that, we need to put forward a Private Act and we are taking the Bank of Scotland licence because it is one of the oldest banking licences in the world. We will save money on regulatory costs by cutting our number of licences to one. There will be absolutely no impact on jobs or on any of our brands."

The Bill is certain to be blocked until after the general election, Mr Sheerman said. He is also angry with HBOS for planning campaigns to embarrass the Government in the run-up to the election, with attacks on the Chancellor for allowing "stealth taxes" on stamp duty, inheritance tax and income tax banding by failing to raise them in line with inflation.

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