In its most recent discussion, finalised on 27th August, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (SMPC) decided by five votes to four that Bank Rate should be raised on Thursday 5th September. Three members wanted an increase of 1⁄2%, while two advocated a rise of 1⁄4%. This split vote for a rate hike would imply a rise of 1⁄4% on normal Bank of England voting procedures. However, a substantial minority of four SMPC members believed that Bank Rate should be held at its present 1⁄2%, although most members did not wish to see an immediate addition to the stock of Quantitative Easing (QE). The upwards revised second quarter UK growth figures, and the somewhat improved prospects for the Euro-zone, indicated that the pace of UK recovery was quickening. However, there was disagreement as to how long this could continue.
In contrast to the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) minutes, the SMPC report contains individual and named contributions. It is significant, therefore, that several SMPC members independently expressed serious reservations about the Bank of England’s 7th August paper on forward guidance. These ranged from fears that the Bank’s theoretical model was gravely flawed, to issues of practical implementation, including whether a lagging labour market indicator of the business cycle represented an appropriate threshold for re- considering Bank Rate. One danger of using a lagging indicator was that policy might end up doing too little too late – or too much too late – and create accelerating inflation or worsening boom-bust cycles. The final three SMPC polls of 2013 will be released on the Sundays of 6th October, 3rd November and 1st December, respectively.