LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey will delay a meeting with Conservative members of parliament due on Wednesday so it does not take place on the same day as a statement by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, the central bank said on Monday.
The talk had been scheduled to follow an update from Sunak on measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19, raising speculation among commentators and some former BoE officials about the reasons for Bailey’s meeting.
Sunak is expected to announce measures to limit a big surge in unemployment, which the BoE and other forecasters think is likely later this year, and in recent days he has already set out plans for billions of pounds of spending.
On the morning of Sunak’s last major fiscal statement on March 11, the BoE announced a surprise cut in interest rates. It has since committed to 300 billion pounds ($375 billion) of asset purchases – mostly government bonds – which have helped keep down borrowing costs for the government.
Originally, the BoE said Bailey was due to explain the BoE’s analysis on the impact of COVID-19 and listen to the views of the 1922 committee – a group of members of parliament from the ruling Conservative Party who do not serve as ministers.
“Due to the Chancellor’s economic update on Wednesday, the meeting between Andrew Bailey and the 1922 committee – arranged prior to the scheduling of the Chancellor’s statement – will now take place at a later date,” the BoE said in a new statement.
“The meeting is part of the Governor’s ongoing programme of engagement with parliamentarians from across the House of Commons.”
While BoE governors regularly appear at public hearings of parliament’s cross-party Treasury Committee, meetings with the 1922 committee are much rarer.
One long-serving member of the 1922 committee, who first heard of the governor’s upcoming appearance earlier on Monday, said he did not recall any such meeting in recent years.
“I’ve never seen a BoE governor here before,” he said.
Eddie George, who was BoE governor from 1993-2003, is the last governor known to have spoken to the committee.
(Reporting by David Milliken and Elizabeth Piper in London; Editing by Stephen Addison and Matthew Lewis)