Mark Carney warns unions interest rates will increase despite 'uncertainty about the future'

Bank of England Governor stressed that the exact path of rate rises was not set

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The Independent Online

Interest rates are set to rise despite global uncertainty, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned today.

Addressing the TUC conference in Liverpool against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis and a potential Scottish vote for independence, the Governor said: “There is as always uncertainty about the future. But uncertainty does not mean stasis. You can expect interest rates to begin to increase.”

Carney stressed that the exact path of rate rises was not set, and that “policy will of course be adjusted if geopolitical events have a material impact on the outlook”. But he also stressed that the “point at which interest rates… begin to normalise is getting closer” with a “more balanced” decision for the Bank’s monetary policy committee as the economy recovers.

Two of the nine-member MPC called for a quarter-point rise in August,  the first vote for dearer money among rate-setters for three years. Interest rates have been held at their present record low of 0.5 per cent since March 2009, although the UK has now passed its pre-recession peak and unemployment is falling rapidly.

The Canadian — addressing the theme of this week’s TUC conference that “Britain deserves a pay rise” — stressed that Britain’s workers had “borne many of the consequences” of the “calamity” of the recession as wages trail far behind inflation.

Threadneedle Street is placing heavy emphasis on the weak wage growth as a signal that low rates are in little danger of fuelling inflation. According to the Bank’s forecasts, anaemic wage growth will only begin to outstrip the cost of living again during the middle of 2015, heralding almost a year more of real-terms pay cuts for the nation’s workforce. But Carney, right, underlined that pay rises could only be paid for through improving the country’s productivity to fund “sustainable” increases.

He said: “Monetary policy cannot do it alone. Others — including trade unions, government and businesses — will determine the potential of this economy. You will determine the size of Britain’s pay rise.

“Skill levels need to be raised continually. That is of course first and foremost about education. But crucially it also means access to lifelong learning, both on and off the job.”

But the Governor’s speech fell short of the hopes of some union leaders in the audience. Paul Kenny, General Secretary of the GMB, said “We want Mark Carney to say that he will hold interest rates low until pay makes up some of the ground lost  in the six years from the  start of the  downturn.

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