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.”
Section 6 of the Bank Charter Act 1844 (Bank to produce weekly account) shall cease to have effect.
6. An account of the amount of Bank of England notes issued by the issue department of the Bank of England, and of gold coin and of gold and silver bullion respectively, and of securities, in the said issue department, and also an account of the capital stock, and the deposits, and of the money and securities belonging to the said governor and company in the banking department of the Bank of England, on some day in every week to be fixed by the [F1 commissioners of inland revenue], shall be transmitted by the said governor and company weekly to the said commissioners, in the form prescribed in the schedule hereto annexed marked (A.), and shall be published by the said commissioners, in the next succeeding London Gazette in which the same may be conveniently inserted.
It’s clear that the Banking Bill does remove the obligation to produce a weekly report on how much money the Bank of England issues. It therefore enables this information to be legally withheld from scrutiny, and thus enables the BoE to issue money covertly (at least until any other required reporting mechanisms come into play). The question then is:
Why would the bill include such a measure if they didn’t at least want the option to be available?