Time for a rise in Bank Rate?

Bank rate in the UK has been at the historically low level of 0.5% since March 2009 and the MPC decision on 13 January was to leave the rate unchanged (see also). But inflation has been well above the Bank of England’s target of 2% since December 2009 and it could well rise further as international commodity prices are soaring. Some economists are thus arguing that Bank rate should rise. This is crucial, they say, to dampen inflationary expectations.

Other economists, however, argue that aggregate demand is likely to remain depressed and that the economy is operating with a large negative output gap. What is more, house prices are falling, as are real wages (see Bosses gain – workers’ pain)

In the following extract from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, two economists, Charles Goodhart and Willem Buiter, both former members of the MPC, debate the issue.

Should interest rates rise? BBC Today Programme (13/1/11)

Economic and Labour Market Review, Office for National Statistics (For inflation data see Tables Chapter 3, Table 3.01; for interest rates see Tables Chapter 5, Table 5.08)
Monetary Policy Committee Decisions Bank of England


  1. What are the arguments for a rise in Bank rate at the current time?
  2. What are the arguments against a rise in Bank rate at the current time?
  3. What information would you require to decide which of the arguments was the more powerful?
  4. Why is it difficult to decide the size of the output gap?
  5. To what extent do the arguments for and against a rise in Bank rate depend on the factors determining expectations, and what expectations are important here?
  6. To what extent are exchange rates relevant to the effectiveness of interest rate policy?