Page last updated at 05:00 GMT, Monday, 22 December 2008

Bank 'did not understand crisis'

Sir John: 'We need to complement rates... with something financial-sector specific'

The Bank of England did not understand the severity of economic problems before the current financial crisis, its deputy governor says.

Sir John Gieve told the BBC that the Bank knew "crazy borrowing" was taking place and the price of houses and other assets was rising unsustainably.

But the Bank thought this problem was less serious than it turned out to be, he said in an interview for Panorama.

The Bank relies too much on interest rates to control the economy, he added.

Sir John, who will be stepping down next year, also sits on the Bank's interest rate-setting committee.

In the interview with BBC business editor Robert Peston, he said interest rates were "a blunt instrument", because they affected the whole economy.

There are some books... which the taxpayer's now holding, which clearly have a level of defaults in them
Sir John Gieve

"We need to develop some new instruments, which sit somewhere between interest rates, which affect the whole economy... and individual supervision and regulation of individual banks," he said.

"We need to develop something which bridges that gap and directly addresses the financial cycle and prevents the financial cycle and the credit cycle getting out of hand."

Commercial future

Sir John has specific responsibility for financial stability.

He was savaged when interrogated last autumn by the Treasury Select Committee for allegedly being insufficiently on top of the crisis at Northern Rock. His colleagues regarded the attack as unfair.

It seems to me that the Bank of England doesn't have much control over anything
Steve, Blackburn

In his BBC interview, he cast doubt on whether the exchequer would get all of the money back that it has pumped into the banking sector.

"There are some books: Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley, which the taxpayer's now holding, which clearly have a level of defaults in them, [I'm] not quite sure how that will balance out against the residual of the capital," he said.

"As for the more mainstream banks, yes I think they've got a commercial future and I'm sure that in time they will... revive and start building and growing as commercial entities again."

Meanwhile, the boss of Barclays bank tells the programme that consumers and companies will continue to find it difficult to access credit for the next one to two years.

Panorama: The Year Britain's Bubble Burst, BBC1 Monday 22nd December at 2030 GMT

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