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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK

Business: The Economy

The ultimate City slickers

Bank of England: Home of the monetary pointy heads

Eight men and one woman hold the keys to British coffers.

They are the members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which sets the level of UK interest rates.

Their vote can seal the fate and future of the British economy.

Since gaining the power to determine the cost of borrowing in June last year, the MPC has hiked interest rates five times - from 6.25% to 7.5% - and cut them four times.

When interest rates came down for the first time, both industry and trade unions said the cut was "too little, too late."

But Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the man who gave the bank the power to set the level of interest rates, insists that the bank should stay independent - removed from short-term political calculations.

So, just who are these pointy heads at Threadneedle street, the bank's headquarters?

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Eddie George: The 59-year-old chain-smoking governor of the Bank of Engand, is nick-named Steady Eddie.

He was reappointed as governor last February, having been with the Bank since the tender age of 24. His appointment was seen as a break with the Bank's more traditional wing.

Relations between the governor and Gordon Brown have come under strain in the past year because of their conflicting views over European Monetary Union.

He confessed to a newspaper journalist to being ignorant of the price of a pint of milk.

[ image:  ]
Mervyn King: Often thought of as the "brains" behind the Bank, the recently-appointed deputy governor has earned the nick-name "Dr Strangelove" because of his obsession with technology.

Before joining the Bank his reputation was based more on his expertise in public and financial economics rather than monetary policy. He was a tax specialist teaching at the London School of Economics.

[ image:  ]
David Clementi: The former MPC deputy governor was one of the forces behind the Tories' privatisation programme.

Mr Clementi was an accountant before he became a banker. Oxford-educated, he joined accountants Arthur Andersen in 1970 and then went to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson after being awarded an MBA at Harvard.

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Sir Alan Budd: Former chief economic adviser to the Treasury, and former economic adviser to Barclays Bank, Sir Alan also holds a number of university positions around the world. Seen by some as an establishment figure and the Treasury's way of keeping an eye on the Bank of England. He will leave the MPC on 1 June 1999.

[ image:  ]
Dr Deanne Julius: The American-born former chief economist of British Airways, Dr Julius, 49 years old, is seen as the voice of industry. The committee's only female, she used to work for the CIA, but was not an agent.

Deanne Julius has been adamant about the damage to industry caused by high interest rates and was the only one to vote against the last rate hike. She was also one of four on the MPC to be hand-picked by Gordon Brown himself.

[ image:  ]
Charles Goodhart: The former professor of banking at the London School of Economics spends his spare time farming sheep in Exmoor. He says it is the time he does his best thinking.

Mr Goodhart is an old Etonian, and a former chief economic adviser to the Bank of England.

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Ian Plenderleith: The Bank of England's executive director, Plenderleith is in charge of monetary policy. He has backed his boss Eddie George in all the committee's votes.

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Willem Buiter: The Dutch-born Euro-enthusiast has held the chair of macroeconomics at Cambridge University since 1994.

He wrote an article last year advocating higher taxes as opposed to higher interest rates.

John Vickers: Former Oxford professor and the latest addition to the MPC. After joining the committee in June, he immediately backed an interest rate rise, which put him with the other hawks, who are particularly tough on inflation.

Mr Vickers, 40, is the Bank of England's chief economist but used to work for the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.

Dr Sushil Wadhwani: MPC member from 1 June 1999 onwards, he replaces Alan Budd. Fellow economists call him 'Mr Hedge Fund'. An expert on financial markets and labour market economics, he is not a monetarist, but rather a Keynesian, criticising the inefficiency and "short termism" of the financial markets.

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