January 16, 2009
The Government is set to throw out the 165-year old law that obliges the Bank to publish a weekly account of its balance sheet – a move that will allow it theoretically to embark covertly on so-called quantitative easing. The Banking Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament, abolishes a key section of the law laid down by Robert Peel’s Government in 1844 which originally granted the Bank the sole right to print UK money.
The ostensible reason for the reform, which means the Bank will not have to print details of its own accounts and the amount of notes and coins flowing through the UK economy, is to allow the Bank more power to overhaul troubled financial institutions in the future, under its Special Resolution Authority.
However, some have warned that it means: “there is nothing to stop an unreported and unmonitored flooding of the money market by the undisciplined use of the printing presses.”
It comes after the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee cut interest rates by half a percentage point, leaving them at the lowest level since the bank’s foundation in 1694.
With the Bank rate now at 1.5pc, most economists suspect the Government and Bank will soon be forced to start quantitative easing – directly increasing the quantity of money in the economy – in a drastic attempt to prevent a recession of unprecedented depth.