How to get cheaper motoring for young drivers as costs hit nearly £2,400 for first year of driving
Many youngsters find it difficult to afford running a car. The latest figures show that on average, a 17 to 24-year-old driver now pays nearly £2,400 to run a car in their first year of driving, of which more than half will be insurance costs.
Here, The Mail on Sunday looks at how young motorists can drive down the cost of insurance cover and examines moves to make driving for youngsters more affordable.
Safe: Charlotte Raymond has benefited from the black box technology
Telematics technology, which allows insurance companies to monitor driving behaviour, is helping many young motorists manage their insurance bills. With a ‘black box’ telematics policy, a smartphone-sized box is installed out of sight inside a car.
It works like a sat-nav or GPS, but monitors how a motorist drives by recording – and assessing – their speed, acceleration, braking, the time of day they drive and how they manoeuvre around corners.
Providers include Co-op Insurance, Marmalade, Insurethebox, Smartdriverclub, Ingenie and MyPolicy.
Graeme Trudgill, of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, says: ‘Putting a telematics black box in a car to monitor driving can reduce premiums for younger motorists by up to a quarter. It also reduces accidents three-fold in the first year of driving.’
One person to benefit from telematics technology is 21-year-old Charlotte Raymond, from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. She has had cover with Co-op via its Young Driver Black Box telematics policy since she was 17.
As a result of driving safely since taking out her insurance, she has managed to reduce her annual premium from £1,012 in 2014 to just £440 this year.
She says: ‘When I got my car four years ago – a Vauxhall Corsa which I am still driving today – I compared insurers and Co-op’s black box offering made the most sense financially. Insurance costs for young drivers are extremely high, but the quote I got back from Co-op was considerably lower than those from other insurers.’
Charlotte had a black box installed after passing her test.
She adds: ‘There are restrictions – such as not being able to go out in my car between 11 o’clock at night and six o’clock in the morning – but I do not feel too hindered by this curfew.
‘My driving also gets monitored and scored on a number of factors – speeding, cornering, braking and acceleration. But I do not mind this as it keeps me safe and means I ultimately save money on my insurance if I drive safely.
‘My premiums have more than halved in four years. Meanwhile a lot of my friends are still paying premiums running into thousands of pounds a year.’
A car is integral to the work of junior doctor Robyn Lewis. But she finds that the cost of owning, running and insuring her Vauxhall Corsa is a big burden on her finances.
The 24-year-old, from Ealing, West London, has just graduated from medical school and is about to take up a more permanent post at a hospital in West London.
Plea: Junior doctor Robyn Lewis would like to see insurance premium tax reduced for young drivers
She says: ‘During my studies, I needed my car to drive to hospitals in London and across the South East.
‘For around five months I was spending as much as two-and-a-half hours a day in my car. I could have used public transport, but that would have meant spending even longer commuting.’
Robyn estimates she spends around £200 a month on petrol. She also pays £20 a month for a servicing plan which covers the cost of repairs – plus road tax, a resident parking permit and occasional parking fees at hospitals.
While all of these costs mount up, the biggest motoring expense remains her car insurance.
She says: ‘When I first passed my driving test, I paid around £1,400 for insurance. I have been driving for several years and am still paying a huge £800 for my current policy.
‘With insurance costing this much, it is really hard for young drivers to be able to afford to keep a car on the road. I would support a call for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to scrap – or at least reduce – insurance premium tax for young motorists.
‘I think the Government should be taking steps to make driving more affordable for people like me. In my work, a car is a necessity, not a luxury.’
Charlotte has just completed her final year at Cardiff University studying politics.
She says: ‘I do not have my car with me in Cardiff, but go home frequently during term time – as well as during the holidays – and use it for local journeys. I now feel a lot more confident about my driving.’
Charlotte is one of Co-op’s ‘ten safest young drivers.’ Overall, these ten drivers have seen their annual premiums decrease by an average of £382 since taking out their insurance.
Findings from the Co-op show that since 2015 the proportion of overall claims per year attributed to drivers aged 17 to 24 has decreased by a fifth as a result of the widespread use of ‘black box’ telematics data.
Steve Kerrigan, of the Co-op, says: ‘While statistics highlight that young drivers are involved in a quarter of all accidents on the roads, it is really encouraging to see that telematics, together with our own training modules, is continuing to have such a positive impact on the safety of young drivers.
‘The financial incentive offered for using telematics has helped result in a 21 per cent reduction in incidents among this age group.’
Since launching its Young Driver proposition in 2011, the firm has ‘given back’ £12.6 million to young motorists – an average of £117 per policy.
Mike Bristow from road safety charity Brake adds: ‘The reported reduction in claims for young drivers shows telematics has an important role to play in promoting safe driver behaviour and is welcomed.
‘The data shows young drivers do respond to black box systems which discourage them from slipping into dangerous habits behind the wheel.’
Some campaigners are calling on the Government to reduce or abolish insurance premium tax for younger motorists to help make driving more affordable.
This tax works in a similar way to VAT in that it is added to the price of insurance policies – at a rate of 12 per cent.
‘But some believe it could be pushed up to as much as 20 per cent by the end of the decade, especially given the need to fund extra spending in the National Health Service.
Research from website Comparethemarket shows that four out of five young drivers do not know what the current rate of insurance premium tax is, despite it adding an average £161 to their annual insurance bill.
Simon McCulloch, a director of the website, says: ‘We urge the Government to introduce a cap on insurance premium tax for drivers under 25 – or remove it altogether.
‘Our research shows that 61 per cent of young motorists do not think the Government is doing enough to make driving affordable for them.’
Further findings show more than two thirds of young drivers rely on their car as part of their commute to work, school or university.
More than a quarter fear that if they could no longer afford to drive then they would risk losing their job.
McCulloch adds: ‘Failing to introduce a limit on insurance premium tax will make it harder for many youngsters, a key segment of the workforce, to get to their place of employment.’
Earlier this year, the Government said it would look at introducing graduated driving licences in an attempt to curb the number of young drivers killed on the roads.
This would mean those who had recently passed their test would face limitations, such as restrictions on night driving and on the number of passengers they can carry.
Mike Bristow from road safety charity Brake, says: ‘We need to look at telematics, along with graduated licences, to improve driving standards among young motorists.’
But some are concerned that such a move could make driving more difficult for young people.
Simon McCulloch says: ‘It needs to be balanced against a restriction in freedom to drive at night. Imposing conditions on new motorists could reduce the number who learn to drive.’
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July 28, 2018
Sources: Daily Mail
test due to a fault that is categorised as 'dangerous' under the new rules introduced in May, Mail Online and This is Money can reveal.</p><p>Under the more stringent assessments, these vehicles are deemed to pose an 'immediate risk to road safety and/or serious impact on the environment'.</p><p>Since 20 May 2018, some 1,131,376 cars have failed their MOTs because of dangerous defects, the exclusive data for This is Money shows.</p><p>Danger, danger: More than 1.1m cars have flunked the updated MOT test for defects deemed as dangerous, new DVSA records show</p><p>The MOT failure rates of vehicles were revealed in DVSA data obtained through a Freedom of Information request made by car buying comparison website Motorway.co.uk.</p><p>It also showed that almost a third of all cars that didn't pass the updated MOT test failed due to a dangerous fault. </p><p>Under the new rules, faults found during an MOT are classified as one of three levels.</p><p>While minor faults can be repaired at a later date and won't result in the vehicle failing the roadworthiness test, official guidance states that a major fault will result in the car automatically flunking an MOT and will need to be fixed before it is retested.</p><p>That said, the car will still be roadworthy until it can be booked in for another assessment. </p><p>New guidelines state that cars deemed to have a dangerous defect should not be driven at all until the problem has been fixed - meaning owners can be made to feel that they have to fork out for the cost of repairs at the garage conducting the MOT.</p><p>However, this is not the case and owners could instead ask other garages to quote for the work and potentially collect their car.</p><p>Certified testing locations have been accused of holding drivers to ransom over the necessary repairs since May.</p><p>Any car that is deemed to have a dangerous defect automatically fails the MOT test and should not be driven at all until the problem has been fixed</p><p>In many cases, owners said they had been charged over the odds by mechanics knowing the new rules state that a vehicle shouldn't be driven again until the dangerous fault has been resolved. </p><p>According to the DVSA website, a dangerous defect 'has a direct and immediate risk to road safety or has a serious impact on the environment, and the vehicle cannot be driven again until the defect has been repaired'.</p><p>Examples of these dangerous defects include leaking hydraulic fluid, incorrectly mounted brake pads and worn wheels. </p><p>A third of all MOT test failures since the revised test was introduced in May are due to dangerous faults, the figures showed</p><p>All vehicles deemed to have one of these fault types will be recorded as 'no longer road legal', and if an owner is caught at the wheel after the MOT verdict they could be fined up to £2,500 and face anything from a penalty of three points to a driving ban. </p><p>Alex Buttle, director of Motorway.co.uk, said he was surprised by the high number of cars that were deemed to have dangerous faults.</p><p>He added that more were likely to be given the same verdict considering many cars haven't been tested under the updated rules.</p><p>This could cause serious problems on UK roads, especially as motorists are keeping their vehicles for longer.</p><p>'New car sales are currently falling at a dramatic rate, but the number of licensed cars on the road is remaining comparatively stable at around 38million,' Buttle said.</p><p>'This suggests owners are hanging onto cars for longer - and because of that, the UK's used car stock will get older year on year unless that trend is reversed. </p><p>'That means more dangerous cars, requiring frequent safety checks'.</p><p>Previous reports suggested that garages were claiming vehicles had dangerous faults so they could hold owners to ransom to have repairs done at the same locations because the rules state the car shouldn't be driven</p><p>Buttle warned that the problem could worsen as the average age of vehicles on the road gets older as motorists dodge new-car showrooms. </p><p>'We could be heading towards becoming a country of clunkers,' he added.</p><p>'Only an uptick in sales of new cars will cause a higher percentage of older cars to start exiting our roads. </p><p>'Until then, we will likely see more and more older and dangerous vehicles clogging up our highways, cars which either need to be fixed by a mechanic urgently or headed for the scrap heap.'</p><p>A vehicle will get a major fault if the MOT tester: </p><p>• can see smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust </p><p>• finds evidence that the DPF has been tampered with</p><p>• brake pad warning lights and if brake pads or discs are missing</p><p>• reversing lights on vehicles first used from 1 September 2009</p><p>• headlight washers on vehicles first used from 1 September 2009 (if they have them)</p><p>• daytime running lights on vehicles first used from 1 March 2018 (most of these vehicles will have their first MOT in 2021 when they're 3 years old)</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
ng on the mantle.</p><p>Just as retailers capitalize on the holiday shopping craze, automakers and dealers have gotten in on the action with holiday deals of their own. Shopping for a new vehicle in December has become a holiday tradition for many Americans.</p><p>"The end of the year has become quite a big sales event," said Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor of Kelley Blue Book. "A lot of manufacturers are loading up their best deals for the end of the year."</p><p>If you're in the market or giving it consideration, here are key tips to consider.</p><p>Your local dealer might be offering discounts that automakers aren't advertising nationally.</p><p>So make sure to head to a car-shopping website to gather information ahead of time.</p><p>"Remember to put in your zip code because there’s a lot of regional money out there that you may be missing out on," DeLorenzo said.</p><p>"The beauty of the internet is you can do so much research up front – everything from what’s my trade-in worth, what are these cars selling for, what are people paying. It’s all about getting your expectations in line."</p><p>Shoppers often assume that dealers will heavily discount current-model-year vehicles to get them off the lot by the end of the month, but that's not always the case.</p><p>Ivan Drury, analyst at car-shopping-advice website Edmunds, said dealers will often carry previous model-year vehicles into the following calendar year.</p><p>"You can get wrapped up in the hype and hysteria of savings, but we see that the prior model year continues on for months," he said. "These cars are sitting on the lot in January, February, March."</p><p>So there might not be a "drastic difference in savings" between the 2018 and 2019 vehicles, he said.</p><p>If facing a choice, the 2019 vehicle might be a better deal because its resale value will hold up better and its technology might be notably upgraded.</p><p>"You could conceivably get a better deal. And you might technically get a better car," Drury said.</p><p>Americans have fallen out of love with sedans. In November, only about 3 in 10 cars sold were passenger cars, according to Morgan Stanley. The rest were SUVs, crossovers, vans and pickups.</p><p>Consequently, the usual price gap between sedans and larger vehicles has widened. For example, the average compact car cost $20,429 in November, compared with $28,765 for the average compact SUV, according to Kelley Blue Book.</p><p>But you might have to look harder to find a sedan because General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler have discontinued or announced plans to discontinue most of their passenger cars.</p><p>Ford, for example, had only 12,000 new Focus cars left as of Dec. 3. When they're gone, they're gone.</p><p>"There may be some great deals on cars, but there are fewer of them around," DeLorenzo said.</p><p>Large sedans might offer the best deals. According to Kelley Blue Book, December deals include $10,000 off the 2018 Cadillac XTS Platinum, $5,750 off the 2018 Chrysler 300 and $5,500 off the 2018 Ford Taurus.</p><p>The mad rush from cars into crossovers has prompted most automakers to offer compact or midsize SUVs or crossovers. Competitors include the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester and Ford Escape.</p><p>Competitors in the compact and midsize SUV segments, which offer a similar vehicle length as sedans with a higher stance, have flooded the market in recent years.</p><p>The furious competition is finally prompting more automakers to discount those models, Drury said.</p><p>"You are going to start finding more deals. That's due to saturation," he said. "They’re all fighting for that market share."</p><p>Resale values on electric vehicles have not held up well, in part because newer versions often have significant improvements.</p><p>Want one? This could be your moment. The Nissan Leaf electric car is often available as a used model in the range of $10,000, said Drury.</p><p>In early December, Ford was offering $11,507 in guaranteed cash on the 2018 Ford Fusion Energi, according to Kelley Blue Book.</p><p>For anyone who hasn't purchased a car in a while, "sticker shock is going to come across the board," Drury said.</p><p>New-car prices averaged $37,654 in November, up 4 percent from a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book. And used-car prices aren't much better.</p><p>In fact, with interest rates rising and loans extended for longer periods, the average used-car payment recently hit $400 monthly for the first time, according to Edmunds.</p><p>"If you’ve been out of the market for just a few years, you will be surprised," Drury said.</p><p>This tip applies no matter when you're shopping. Before heading to your local dealer, consider getting pre-approved for a loan at your financial institution.</p><p>Then you can use that loan rate as leverage when you visit the dealer, which might be willing to match or beat the rate you've been offered.</p><p>As the new year draws closer, some dealers will get more desperate to sell vehicles to bolster their 2018 revenue and profit figures.</p><p>"It really does make sense to go shopping before they close out their calendar year for sales," DeLorenzo said.</p><p>But you might have company on the lot. The busiest time of the month for dealers is between Christmas and New Year's, Drury said. </p>
aillie Gifford America fund and Lindsell Train investment trust navigated a particularly choppy year to emerge as the best performers.</p><p>The former tops the list of investment funds, according to DIY investing platform AJ Bell, delivering a return of 26 per cent to 7 December that would have turned £1,000 invested into £1,260.</p><p>The latter is this year's best performing investment trust and was up 45 per cent over the period, turning £1,000 invested into £1,450.</p><p>Before you pile into any of the best performing funds, it important remember there's no guarantee that their performance will remain on the upwards trajectory.</p><p>Investment funds and trusts both pool investors money together to buy a basket of assets, such as shares, bonds and property, but are structured in different ways.</p><p>Funds are the names given to open-ended investments, which can expand or contract as investors put money in or take it out. In contrast, investment trusts are closed-ended, so have a limited number of shares and their price can therefore rise above or below the value of the investments held, known as net asset value. </p><p>While many investors use a mix of both, the fund industry is much larger than the investment trust one. </p><p>With the help of AJ Bell, we reveal the top performing funds and trusts below. </p><p>But before you are tempted to pile in, remember there's no guarantee that they will remain on an upward trajectory. </p><p>The top performing funds in 2018 were dominated by those investing in the US and high-growth sectors, such as healthcare, biotechnology and broader technology. </p><p>Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at AJ Bell, said: ‘Many US-focused funds performed well this year, boosted by the sugar rush that American markets are riding following Donald Trump’s tax cuts earlier this year.’ </p><p>Cherry-picking the best of the US market provided rich returns for the Baillie Gifford American fund, which returned 26 per cent compared to the wider US stock market, the S&P 500, which was down 2.3 per cent over the same period.</p><p>Behind Baillie Gifford American in second place was Polar Capital Healthcare Opportunities which returned 22 per cent turning a £1,000 investment into £1,218, followed by Neptune Global Opportunities which was up 20 per cent.</p><p>The structure of investment trusts makes them a popular way to hold unusual assets which can be harder to buy or sell - and are known as illiquid. </p><p>This is because unlike funds which must sell assets to allow investors to take out money, trusts have a set number of shares and so can hold tight and not become forced sellers.</p><p>The list of top performing investment trusts can therefore feature some offbeat names. </p><p>Fittingly, the 10 best-performing investment trusts came from a wide range of sectors with biotechnology and healthcare the only sector to appear more than once. </p><p>Top was Lindsell Train investment trust, which both invests in other companies but also holds shares in the highly-rated asset management firm run by Michael Lindsell and Nick Train.</p><p>Completing the top three are healthcare specialists Syncona and EJF Investments, which holds shares in the financial services sector, boasting returns of 32 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.</p><p>Baillie Gifford American's outperformance is of stark contrast to that of its benchmark S&P 500 which was down 2 per cent this year. </p><p>Much of the fund's performance is linked to its stake in major tech players including Amazon, Netflix, Google's Alphabet and Facebook - all of which are among its top ten holdings.</p><p>The fund has lost 11 per cent in the past three months which correlates to a dip suffered by the aforementioned US tech companies. </p><p>Suter said: 'While these stocks have had a torrid time in the second half of the year, they boomed in the first half of the year and some are still up on the year (Amazon was up 38 per cent since 1 January, Netflix was up 34 per cent). </p><p>Investment trusts are listed companies with shares that trade on the stockmarket.</p><p>Trusts invest in the shares of other companies and are known as closed end, meaning the number of shares or units the trust's portfolio is divided into is limited. Investors can buy or sell these units to join or leave, but new money outside this pool cannot be raised without formally issuing new shares.</p><p>Investment trusts can be riskier than unit trusts because their shares can trade at a premium or discount to the value of the assets they hold, known as the net asset value.</p><p>The success enjoyed by Lindsell Train IT is a different story. The trust was trading at 45 per cent to net asset value at having started the year at nearer the 13 per cent the time of writing</p><p>It's share price has risen by 45 per cent in share price terms but the actual value of the trust's holdings have risen by a more modest 10 per cent.</p><p>The reason behind the trust's valuation goes beyond the popularity of its manager Nick Train - although he has had a good year. Funds managed by him grow by 19 per cent on average according to investment research tool FE Analytics,</p><p>A better guess is that investors believe the trust's long-term investment in its parent Lindsell Train Limited is conservatively valued.</p><p>Some 47 per cent of the trust is invested in the private asset management company, so the trust stands to gain a significant amount if it emerges as significantly undervalued, perhaps if the firm was subject to a big money takeover bid - which isn't inconceivable.</p><p>However, members of the trust's board have openly voice his concerns on the trust's premium level in the past.</p><p>Michael Lindsell, joint founder of Lindsell Train Limited said: 'Shareholders have been warned for some time that this level of premium is unlikely to be sustainable and is particularly vulnerable to the performance of LTL which, like any fund management company, is exposed to the vagaries of markets.'</p><p>It may sound counter-intuitive but many investors buy investment trusts when they cost more than the sum of their underlying holdings, and in many cases it is.</p><p>There may also be another less obvious reason as to why a trust could potentially hold hidden value that if it was unlocked would make those shares worth much more.</p><p>Whatever the reason, it better be a good one to pay over the odds because you could lose a lot of money without the value of those assets falling if the share price moves in the opposite direction.</p><p>The worst performer is Jupiter India Select, which delivered a 29 per cent loss this year, wiping £290 off a £1,000 initial investment and outstrips the 4 per cent loss recorded by the benchmark MSCI India index.</p><p>The Quilter Investors UK Equity Income II fund, run by celebrity fund manager Neil Woodford, was down 27 per cent this year, making it the second worst performing fund overall and the worst performing UK Equity fund.</p><p>On the investment trust side, at the foot of the performance table is CATCo Reinsurance Opportunities which generated a 79 per cent loss followed by INTU properties which was down 52 per cent. </p><p>The worst performing funds lists are dominated by those investing in emerging markets which have endured a troubled year, down around 13 per cent in the year. </p><p>Suter said: 'Fears of the impact of the China/US trade war, worries about China growth slowing, and economic meltdowns in Argentina and Turkey have all hurt the region, while the buoyant US economy and a rising Dollar has also hit growth. </p><p>Some UK funds have also been regulated to the doldrums as Brexit uncertainty soured investors' appetite to invest in the region. </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Work out how a lump sum or regular monthly savings would grow</p><p>Find the top deals in our independent best-buy tables</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
oyal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) attributed low demand from both buyers and sellers down to 'Brexit uncertainty'.</p><p>Rics' chief economist Simon Rubinsohn said: 'I can't recall a previous survey when a single issue has been highlighted by quite so many contributors'. </p><p>Sales are down as Brexit causes the UK housing market to stagnate, experts have revealed</p><p>In Rics' November 2018 market analysis, the number of people looking for a new home fell again. </p><p>The net balance of -21 per cent, down from -15 per cent in October, was the lowest since September 2017.</p><p>Weaker demand dragged down property prices. The price balance slipped to -11 per cent in November from -10 per cent in October, which is the lowest reading since September 2012.</p><p>House prices have been falling in London, the south-east and East Anglia, while in the south-west, east Midlands and north-east they have been broadly flat.</p><p>There were price rises in Northern Ireland, Scotland, West Midlands, Wales, Yorkshire and Humber and the north-west.</p><p>The number of people looking for a new home fell in November, with a net balance of 21 per cent of surveyors reporting house hunter numbers falling rather than rising</p><p>Mr Rubinsohn added: 'It is evident from the feedback to the latest RICS survey that the ongoing uncertainties surrounding how the Brexit process plays out is taking its toll on the housing market. </p><p>Remortgaging has reached its highest level in nearly a decade as experts say Brexit uncertainty and cheap loan rates are encouraging borrowers to lock into new deals.</p><p>Remortgage loans worth £9.2billion were handed out to home owners in October, according to trade association UK Finance.</p><p>This was a 22.7 per cent jump on a year earlier and the highest figure since November 2008.</p><p>In total, 50,500 new home owner remortgage loans were completed in October, 23.2 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier.</p><p>'Caution is visible among both buyers and vendors and where deals are being done, they are taking longer to get over the line. </p><p>'Significantly the forward-looking indicators reflect the suspicion that the political machinations are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. </p><p>'The bigger risk is that this now spills over into development plans making it even harder to secure the uplift in the building pipeline to address the housing crisis.'</p><p>The number of new properties being listed for sale fell for the fifth consecutive report, and the net balance of -24 per cent was the fastest pace of decline in supply recorded in more than two years.</p><p>This lack of new stock is impacting estate agents' stock levels with agents now only having, on average, 42.1 homes for sale.</p><p>The number of new appraisals by property valuers is also down in comparison to a year earlier.</p><p>Forecasts for the next quarter are now bleaker than at any time since the EU Referendum result, falling from minus six per cent to -23 per cent - the most substantial decline in this number since June 2016. </p><p>House prices have been falling in London, the south-east and East Anglia, while in the south-west, east Midlands and north-east they have been broadly flat. There were price rises in Northern Ireland, Scotland, West Midlands, Wales, Yorkshire and Humber and the north-west</p><p>In the rental market, demand from tenants was holding steady, while the flow of rental homes on to the market continued to slow, Rics said. </p><p>This is expected to result in modest rent rises over the next 12 months, it added. </p><p>Hew Edgar, RICS head of policy, said: 'RICS shares the resounding sentiment of frustration from our professionals operating in the UK's residential sector; and we are not surprised by this month's outcome.</p><p>'Brexit was always going to be a very politically charged debate, but the current style of politics and continuing level of political uncertainty is significantly impacting the housing market and built environment.'</p><p>He said before the referendum experts believed Brexit would only affect high-end properties but not even those at the lower end of the market were 'putting off decisions until there is more certainty'. </p><p> The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
ay the markets are steady so far today, with the pound in recovery mode and the FTSE 100 in the green after another strong session in the US. </p><p>There's a clutch of company updates out this morning, including an unscheduled profit warning from beleaguered fashion firm Bonmarche as well as full-year results from Mike Ashley's Sports Direct and travel giant Tui. </p><p>After a day of political turmoil on Wednesday the markets are steady so far today</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
ectacularly backfired.</p><p>It decided to get rid of a backlog of vacuum cleaners and washing machines, by offering two free return flights to Europe if you bought a Hoover product costing more than £100.</p><p>It proved a hit and - despite the dubious financials of a giveway worth more than a product cost - Hoover got away with it thanks to backroom deals with travel agents.</p><p>Then inexplicably, Hoover decided to up the ante. It launched a new promotion offering two considerably more expensive return flights to the US free to those who bought a product.</p><p>The advertising slogan was: ‘Two return seats: Unbelievable.’</p><p>Like Hoover's free flights to the US promotion, David Cameron's decision to offer a Leave or Remain question in the EU referendum has backfired</p><p>Hoover and its travel agent and airline partners were overwhelmed by people taking advantage of a stupendously good deal.</p><p>And in a story where mistakes compounded, as tales began to emerge of people struggling to claim flights, more were either alerted to the deal and signed up, or raced to book free tickets from the Hoover they had bought.</p><p>Customers took Hoover to court, one took a washing machine repairman’s van hostage and became a national hero, and only an estimated 220,000 of the 500,000 free flights managed to be claimed.</p><p>Discussing this story with friends over a pint the other day, somebody said: ‘Still, it probably seemed a good idea at the time.’</p><p>‘Just like the Brexit vote,’ came a reply in chorus from a bunch of us who aren't even particularly anti-Brexit.</p><p>At the risk of shoehorning the Hoover story into this column, David Cameron’s own promotional offer of ‘vote for me and get an EU referendum free’ similarly backfired.</p><p>When against expectations he saw off the UKIP threat and was elected with no need for coalition partners, he decided to up the ante and give the nation the choice to Leave or Remain.</p><p>And what an unholy mess that has left the country in.</p><p>With just under three months to go to our exit date, we cannot agree on a plan for leaving, risk a lorry-park-on-the-M20-style no-deal Brexit and have a government teetering on collapse.</p><p>We also have an opposition party seemingly more interested in its success than the UK successfully navigating Brexit.</p><p>The situation is characterised as a row between Leave and Remain, however, the real problem is not that rift but the vote we had in the first place.</p><p>With hindsight it should never have been structured to deliver a simple result, but no clear indication of what the country wanted from it, or in our future relationship with the EU.</p><p>From rereading each article three things were clear:</p><p>Firstly, it was obvious even then that both sides were being misleading; secondly, the situation wasn’t as vicious then as now; and finally, almost nobody spotted the Northern Ireland problem that is sinking the whole ship.</p><p>In ten well-informed articles that I linked to, Ireland and Northern Ireland were mentioned in that context just once.</p><p>The Queen is famously said to have asked why no one saw the credit crunch coming. She could have the same question about Northern Ireland and the backstop</p><p>Keep trying to square the circle, pick a new leader to deal with the same old problems, get a Labour government whose loosely defined plan will most likely face the same issues, or have another referendum.</p><p>The thought of that last option fills me with dread - and if we did, I suspect it would solve little as it would probably just deliver a similar result (or an even bigger vote for Brexit from the contrarian British public). </p><p>However, what's clear to me is that if we do ultimately go down that path it cannot be a rerun of the Leave and Remain question. </p><p>Like the Hoover flights, that was not a good idea. </p><p> The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. </p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
one change tucked away in the small print which might go unnoticed until it's too late. </p><p>This year proved no exception with a change to the rules on capital gains tax on property. </p><p>The Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed he would half the relief awarded to accidental landlords selling up a property that had previously been their permanent private residence - home, in other words. </p><p>Changes to capital gains tax rules on property could unwittingly affect divorcing couples</p><p>At the moment, individuals who move out of their home but don't sell it immediately have a window of 18 months during which time, the proceeds from a sale are exempt from capital gains tax. </p><p>From April 2020, this window will half, leaving those who struggle to sell their previous home after they move out just nine months to exit before having to stump up capital gains tax to the Treasury. </p><p>While it has been pitched as a further crackdown on landlords, the new rule is also likely to affect divorcing couples.</p><p>As of April 2020, individuals will have only a nine-month window within which to sell their main residence, after they have moved out, before they potentially become liable for capital gains tax. This contrasts with the current window of 18 months. </p><p>This relief period was initially put in place as recognition of the fact that selling a home is often fraught with difficulties and that it is not unusual for property owners to become accidental landlords when a sale falls through. </p><p>It has also provided divorcing couples with some breathing space, particularly if, as is very common after separation, they live apart but continue to own the family home jointly.</p><p>Under the new proposals if a husband or wife moves out of the family home because of a relationship breakdown, a capital gains charge may be generated unless the property is sold or transferred within a nine-month timeframe. </p><p>Special rules apply if the family home is sold or transferred between spouses, even after they have separated, provided that they have lived together within the tax year that the sale or transfer takes place.</p><p>The new nine-month timeframe may not be enough for warring spouses to agree upon the key financial and practical issues of a divorce, as well as to sort out the legalities.</p><p>For most separating couples, the family home is likely to be their most valuable asset. The decision of what to do with the house will therefore be crucial. So, what are the options? </p><p>One option is that one spouse gets to keep the house - in London and the South East, it is not unusual for a family home to be worth around £2million, and can often be considerably more. </p><p>The high level of stamp duty on this type of property means that it is often difficult for couples to sell up and buy two cheaper properties. Provided that the family's financial circumstances allow for it, it is therefore not unusual for the house to be transferred into the sole name of one spouse. </p><p>The other spouse is likely to be the higher earner and able to buy another property with the help of a mortgage.</p><p>For most separating couples, the family home is likely to be their most valuable asset </p><p>There's also the option of the Mesher Order. In this situation, the court will rule that in the interests of the children, the parent who is primarily responsible for their care can remain in the family home until the youngest child reaches the age of 18 or finishes education. </p><p>At this point, the property must be sold and the net sale proceeds distributed between the parties.</p><p>The house can also be divided into two – in theory this might be able to work if a family has a large property. In reality, divorcing couples are unlikely to wish to face the complexities involved in agreeing and managing a building project.</p><p>One other option is what is known as a 'birds nest' arrangement. This option provides that the children remain in the family home and the parents rotate between this and a much smaller property. </p><p>Such 'birds nest' co-parenting arrangements have become popular in the US. But although in theory a birds nest co-parenting arrangement could provide the children with consistency and minimal disruption it is likely to be very difficult to work in practice.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>How much tax would you have to pay on a home or buy-to-let?</p><p>*Transactions under £40,000 do not require a tax return to be filed with HMRC and are not subject to the higher rates</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
ance paralysis - the fear of making a bad personal finance decision - meaning it is put-off or often, not made at all, research suggests. </p><p>Delaying or not making personal finance decisions when it comes to credit cards, personal loans and mortgages cost a typical person £1,598 this year.</p><p>On average, it takes 21 minutes before someone chooses to give up when trying to make a decision about their personal finance, the study by Freedom Finance, an online broker, and Professor David Hillier, an economist at Strathclyde Business School, shows.</p><p>There are too many choices with regards to personal finance, which is why people put them off</p><p>The cost of personal finance indecision was calculated by obtaining national figures of individuals and households with a mortgage, personal loan and/or credit card. </p><p>It analysed the percentage of consumers who had not switched a mortgage, personal loan and/or credit card in the last 12 months and compared this with available statistics on average market borrowing rates. </p><p>One of the main reasons that so many people are indecisive is the sheer number of products on offer, the research concludes. </p><p>This means that people can easily become overwhelmed and are unable to spot what is the best option for them. </p><p>Freedom Finance and Censuswide polled 2,034 adults in September and Freedom Finance and YouGov also polled 2,029 in October to obtain the results. </p><p>It found that a third of people said they don't like to make important personal finance decisions as it makes them feel overwhelmed and anxious. </p><p>The research doesn't mention other personal finance decisions many may dwell on, such as sorting their pension, starting the savings habit or switching utility providers - so the figure is likely to be even higher.</p><p>A further 30 per cent said they leave consolidating finances at the bottom of their to-do lists. </p><p>The main outcome from the research is the discovery that people want their personal finance providers to give them clarity, not just choice. </p><p>Fear: More than a third of people experience personal finance paralysis across the country</p><p>Brian Brodie, chief executive of Freedom Finance, said: 'Providers of personal loans, mortgages and credit cards have a responsibility to ensure that the options are simple and clear for their customers, so that borrowers can make well-informed decisions.' </p><p>Freedom Finance found that failing to switch or consolidate to a more favourable credit card rate costs each adult on average £432 this year.</p><p>Additionally, a failure to switch or consolidate personal loans also cost each adult £421 in 2018, whilst those on a non-fixed rate mortgage lost £745 in the last year by not opting for a better rate. </p><p>It believes that the industry should help customers tackle personal finance paralysis by giving clearer options, as well as relevant guidance and education that will give people the opportunity to make well-informed personal finance decisions. </p><p>David Hillier, professor of finance and executive dean of Strathclyde Business School, said: 'Many operate under the assumption that making no decision is preferable to making the "wrong" decision. </p><p>'But by failing to pull the trigger, consumers lose thousands of pounds. The scale of personal finance indecision and its impact on households and the economy is a cause for concern. </p><p>'As interest rates have the potential to rise in 2019, customers stand to lose even more money if decisions aren't carefully considered.' </p><p>Data from Wealthify, the online investment service, has found that there are 11.2million downloaded money management apps that are unused and lying dormant on mobiles and tablets across the country.</p><p>Research from the service found that 93 per cent of financial apps that are downloaded by the public are banking apps. </p><p>However, collectively, only 15 per cent of the population are using apps to help them fill up their savings, investments or retirement pots – even though these are often free to use and designed to make the use of them simple and effortless. </p><p>This suggests that Britons are not taking advantage of the potential benefits that can be provided by using finance apps, meaning they could be missing out on saving hundreds of pounds. </p><p>Michelle Pearce-Burke, chief information officer and co-founder of Wealthify, said: 'Despite the digital revolution and a wealth of free-to-download finance apps available to help people save and invest, it is a real shame so many of these apps sit unused on people's phones. </p><p>'The fact that so many are downloading these apps in the first place shows a clear will amongst people to take control of finances. Making the benefits to the user clearer should help people's perception of the apps' usefulness.'</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p>Your comment will be posted to MailOnline as usual.</p><p>Do you want to automatically post your MailOnline comments to your Facebook Timeline?</p><p> We will automatically post your comment and a link to the news story to your Facebook timeline at the same time it is posted on MailOnline. To do this we will link your MailOnline account with your Facebook account. We’ll ask you to confirm this for your first post to Facebook.</p><p>Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group</p>
k family and health secrets is on the increase</p><p>'You can change,' declares Atlas Biomed, while Vitl promises that their offer of personalised nutrition can, 'help you feel 100 per cent more often'.</p><p>Services such as Ancestry and 23andMe not only help you discover your family's story, but enable you to find and connect with relatives who share DNA with you by joining a database of other users - you could, after all, be related to royalty. </p><p>Even the National Geographic is among the companies promising to unlock the secret of your genomes.</p><p>Information that used to only be available to doctors and researchers can now be yours for as little as £69 on websites including Amazon.</p><p>Ahead of Christmas, a number of adverts have popped up stating that these testing kits make a perfect gift. </p><p>Some will indicate your risk of developing serious conditions such as dementia, multiple sclerosis and certain cancers, including the presence of the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene that prompted actress Angelina Jolie to have a preventative double mastectomy in 2013.</p><p>The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently announced his intention to sequence 5million genomes in the UK over the next five years.</p><p>The aim, to 'have tailor-made treatments and tailor-made drugs that are the best fit for a patient, not a best guess', he said.</p><p>Indeed, so important is this area of scientific research deemed to be that the Government recently updated the code on the use of genetic testing, preventing insurers from asking customers about predictive genetic test results when applying for insurance (in most cases).</p><p>But one expert told This is Money, that with millions having access to this sort of detailed information about their own health, it will only be a matter of time before insurers are demanding it too.</p><p>Along with the financial implications, there are privacy and ethical issues to consider.</p><p>Many are blindly taking these tests as a 'bit of fun' especially with the prices of these kits dropping – but should we be concerned?</p><p>Secrets: The tests can reveal a slew of information about your genetic build-up</p><p>Katherine was bought a 23&me test two years ago as a Christmas present by her husband Tim Dallman for around £120.</p><p>'We thought it would be interesting, mostly for the ancestry part', Katherine told This is Money.</p><p>'My family don't have much information about where we come from and I found out that I'm part Jewish. It starts interesting conversations. We even had a family get together where we discussed the results.'</p><p>While Katherine had a positive experience and says she would recommend the test, she does think that there are important things to consider.</p><p>'I admit, I didn't really give much thought around the health side and potential diagnoses. To be honest, I don't remember the kit saying exactly what it was testing for.</p><p>'We were thinking of starting a family at the time, so I don't know what we'd have done if we had both tested as carriers for a certain illness. I'm just glad now, that did not happen.'</p><p>Her husband, Tim, is also happy with taking the test, but says it's largely because he knows how to interpret the results.</p><p>'I'm a scientist, with an interest in genetics', he told This is Money. 'One of the reasons that I was comfortable taking the test is because I am aware of the uncertainty of getting any positive genetic matches.'</p><p>He said that many results are not causative, meaning certain diseases have been associated more with people who have certain mutations than not, but experts don't know it has a definite cause in making the disease.</p><p>'I do accept there are people that won't be able to interpret their results and consumers need to be protected with the testing companies offering support and counselling.'</p><p>Family portrait: Tim Dallman and his wife Katherine took one of the tests - and he says that some people may need support or counselling, depending on the results </p><p>Kelly - who doesn't wish for her full name to be published - knows how difficult it can be to get an unexpected result.</p><p>'I was recently suffering from stomach problems and had been looking up my symptoms on the internet - suddenly I was being bombarded by adverts for gut microbiome testing kits.</p><p>'I thought, why not? It would be quicker than going to my GP, I was in pain and curious.'</p><p>Most companies will offer a discount if you buy more than one product, so Kelly also bought both a DNA kit along with the microbiome test for £230 from Atlas Biomed.</p><p>The tests were simple, says Kelly. 'They arrive in the post, you provide a stool sample and spit into a tube for the DNA, send it back freepost, and a few weeks later you get your results.'</p><p>'I was pretty underwhelmed. I was eating most of the food the test suggested anyway. I think the most entertaining thing was being told I have the gut of a village peasant. It certainly didn't offer anything that would help with my stomach problems.'</p><p>'I was shocked and really upset. The result came back that I have a much higher than normal risk of dementia – a condition I can do nothing about.'</p><p>Alzheimer's UK have expressed caution and believe it is vital that anyone considering taking these tests should be offered full genetic counselling to ensure it is the right decision for them and explain what the results mean.</p><p>A spokesman said: 'At present, the relationship between genetics and dementia is not fully understood and the results of the most common type of testing have a low predictive value.</p><p>'Genetic testing can be difficult emotionally, not provide conclusive results and cause practical difficulties.'</p><p>The accuracy is also of concern and could be causing people to make wrong even dangerous health choices for themselves, based on what could be inaccurate information.</p><p>Privacy: Is it possible that results could be passed onto insurers in the future? (Stock image)</p><p>Beyond the concern over moral and accuracy concerns, is the issue of privacy.</p><p>Kelly adds: 'I am really worried now about how this information will be used in the future.</p><p>Some large genetic testing companies announced in the summer that they had agreed to a mutual set of guidelines to better protect the privacy of users who submit their DNA for testing.</p><p>The new voluntary policies call for requiring separate consent from users before sharing 'individual-level information' with other businesses and more transparency about the number of requests for data received by, and fulfilled for, law enforcement.</p><p>Users who had already submitted DNA to 23&Me and opted in to sharing their data for research purchases may have already had their data shared with GlaxoSmithKline, which is headquartered in London.</p><p>23andMe entered into a partnership with GSK which was announced on July 25, and aims to develop new prescription drugs and identify and recruit patients for clinical studies.</p><p>There are currently over five million users in the 23andMe database, the company says.</p><p>'I always considered myself pretty savvy when it comes to privacy and security when shopping and banking online, but I have given over my most intimate information to an unknown company online without checking who they are and what they will do with it.</p><p>In America, DNA testing has already been used to crack murder trials though its widespread use by law enforcement officials has yet to be tested in court.</p><p>Atlas Biomed told us: 'We may use anonymised and aggregate raw data to identify disease patterns and for other interpretive purposes.</p><p>'It has been stripped of your name and other contact information so that you cannot reasonably be identified.'</p><p>But they cannot guarantee that any of your data sent to their site will remain safe because of the inherent problems of the internet.</p><p>'Although we will do our best to protect your personal data; any transmission is at your own risk.'</p><p>As to what these companies do with your data, Atlas Biomed told us: 'We store the samples for one year, although we retain the right to store the samples for an indefinite period.'</p><p>This is Money called Ancestry, one of the biggest DNA kit suppliers, who told us: 'We don't share your data with anyone and take website security and privacy seriously.</p><p>'You will be asked if you want to join a database for research once you have got your results but you can say no and request for your data to be deleted immediately.</p><p>'Ancestry has some research programmes that use anonymised data to show how DNA has changed and how to read it but we will never sell your information to another company.'</p><p>Stocking filler: Many may be tempted to 'gift' one of these tests for Christmas</p><p>It also raises the question on whether insurers could be interested in your data to then raise, or potentially lower your premiums accordingly.</p><p>The Government and Association of British Insurers recently launched an updated Code on the use of genetic testing in the insurance market – previously called the Concordat and Moratorium on Genetics and Insurance.</p><p>Launched in 2001, the code sets out how insurers are able to use genetic information, with insurers again agreeing not to probe customers about the results of any tests when they apply for cover.</p><p>Have you taken a DNA or genetic testing kit after seeing them advertised, and got more than you bargained for?</p><p>The previous version expired every three years, now it is to be reviewed every three years but remains open-ended.</p><p>Malcom Tarling at the Association of British Insurers, said: 'Insurers do not want to act or seen to be acting in a way to hinder genetic testing and genetic science, which is still in its infancy.</p><p>Toby Bainbridge, head of protection solutions at Royal London said: 'Individuals considering taking a predictive genetic test should be reassured that the information cannot be used unfavourably when applying for insurance.'</p><p>Dr Penny O'Nions, a medical insurance expert, believes that as more people seek to discover more about their own genetic make-up it could have a knock-on effect.</p><p>She said: 'Certain employers may want this sort of information about potential recruits, particularly if that person is of value.</p><p>'There is a possibility that if these tests become more widespread why would employers and insurers not use this as standard.'</p><p>The upshot is that all this extra genetic information may be great for science - if the information is shared and not kept in the private companies for research - but bad news for people who show up markers for conditions and then try to get life/health/protection cover without paying an arm and a leg.</p><p>It may get to a stage where if you have ever taken one of these tests, like smoking or a pre-existing condition, you will have to declare it to your insurer.</p><p>If people take a test to get a lower premium – which is not available presently – they would have to also accept the possibility the test could turn up a higher risk of life-threatening conditions, such as cancer and dementia.</p><p>This would then mean they could pay significantly more or may even be refused cover.</p><p>Dr O'Nions adds: 'As we become more advanced and sophisticated with the tests that we have available and we become more interested – those companies that can profit will latch on to them, which includes insurance companies but also employers.</p><p>'You could find that there are people who are completely declined or their insurance premiums are unaffordable.</p><p>'Insurance companies will be the highest beneficiaries from these tests. The potential repercussions are phenomenal.</p><p>'The more people that buy the tests, the cheaper and more reliable they become. We may be 20 years from a situation where employers and insurers are demanding them, but it's our children's future we need to think about.'</p><p>Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk.</p><p>Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.</p><p>Biological samples are stored at our partner laboratories, which are accredited to ISO15189 standards, which include industry standards for the storage of samples taken from humans. We store the samples for 1 year, although we retain the right to store the samples for an indefinite period.</p><p>We separate your identity from your DNA sample throughout the testing process and use only your unique activation code to track your DNA.</p><p>Your results are encrypted and stored in our database, which employs a number of security measures. We strictly limit access to this database from within the company as well.</p><p>As part of our customer charter we will process your personal data fairly and lawfully.</p><p>Some features allow you to compare your DNA to that of other 23andMe users while others use publicly available reference datasets to help you explore your recent and ancient ancestry.</p><p>We will not otherwise release your information without your explicit consent, unless required by law. 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recently was working as a senior adviser for northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank on global affairs.</p><p> A Chinese speaker, Kovrig went on leave without pay to take up his position nearly two years ago and no longer holds a diplomatic passport — or the immunity that bestows. Earlier, he worked as a Canadian diplomat in various roles, including in the consulate general in Hong Kong, where he helped arrange a visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016.</p><p> As first secretary and vice consul at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing from 2014 to 2016, Kovrig traveled around China conducting field research on politics and government policies and meeting with contacts, including dissidents. Such work is common among diplomats and foreign journalists in China, but viewed with deep suspicion by China's ruling Communist Party, raising the possibility Kovrig could be charged with espionage.</p><p> Kovrig, believed to be in his late 40s, was a frequent commentator on China affairs for the foreign media, including The Associated Press.</p><p> He was very capable and a "very smart guy," who is extremely knowledgeable about China, a former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, told the Toronto Star.</p><p> Kovrig also worked for the United Nations Development Program after graduating from the University of Toronto and Columbia University.</p><p> China-based Spavor is known for his contacts with high-ranking North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he has been photographed shaking hands and laughing.</p><p> He was also key to bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to North Korea in 2013 in what was considered a significant, if somewhat quirky, breakthrough in the outside world's contact with the young head of the hard-line communist regime.</p><p> The Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said in its Twitter feed that Spavor was "suspected of engagement in activities that harm China's national security," and was "being investigated by the State Security Bureau of Dandong City" in northeast China's Liaoning province. It cited local media reports.</p><p> In 2015, Spavor founded Paektu Cultural Exchange, a non-governmental organization that works to facilitate sports, cultural, tourism and business exchanges with North Korea. Its mission statement says it aims to "promote greater peace, friendship and understanding."</p><p> It's one of a few organizations promoting interactions with North Korea that have at times drawn criticism for avoiding criticism of the regime's human rights abuses. The group's Facebook page advertises a five-day trip to North Korea over the New Year, including a visit to the Demilitarized Zone and a hot springs resort.</p><p> A fluent Korean speaker with 16 years of experience working and studying in East Asia, Spavor was graduated from a university in his hometown of Calgary and studied North Korean affairs at South Korea's Kangwon National University, according to his Facebook page.</p>