UK
29/05/2014 07:07 BST | Updated 29/05/2014 07:59 BST

Bank Of England Official Urges UK Interest Rate Rise 'Sooner'

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14:  Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, speaks during a news conference to present the UK Quarterly Inflation Report on May 14, 2014 in London, England. The bank of England stated that interest rates will remain low for 'some time', a move to reassure againt fears of rising mortgage costs. Mr Carney also pledged to examine the issue of mortgage affordability surrounding falling wages.  (Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis - Pool/Getty Images)
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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, speaks during a news conference to present the UK Quarterly Inflation Report on May 14, 2014 in London, England. The bank of England stated that interest rates will remain low for 'some time', a move to reassure againt fears of rising mortgage costs. Mr Carney also pledged to examine the issue of mortgage affordability surrounding falling wages. (Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis - Pool/Getty Images)

Interest rates must start to rise "sooner" if policy-makers want to stick to plans to hike them only at a gradual pace, a key Bank of England official has said.

Martin Weale, a member of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who is widely seen as likely to be the first to vote for an increase, made the remarks in an interview with the Financial Times.

He said: "If you want to have baby steps, you do have to start sooner. The question is: how close are we getting to 'soon'? Of course, we can never be sure, but the economy... has sustained fairly rapid growth in demand.

"So I'm having to ask the question - and the answer is less definite than it was six months ago - 'Where do I think the interest rate should be at the moment?'."

The Bank rate has been on hold at a historic low of 0.5% for five years to try to help nurse the economy back to health but the UK recovery has intensified speculation about when it will need to rise.

Bank governor Mark Carney has insisted that they'll only start to raise interest rates next spring, although analysts expect that continuing growth and falling unemployment could force officials to raise interest rates sooner.

Policy-makers have said that when the rate does rise, it will be only gradual.

Weale's remarks come after minutes of the MPC's last meeting showed some members believed the current weight of argument towards keeping rates on hold was "becoming more balanced". Weale confirmed that he was among them.

The committee will meet again next week for its latest rates decision but Weale indicated that he did not believe immediate change was necessary.

He said: "We can wait a bit longer. How long that 'bit longer' will be, I'm not sure, but the best judgment I can have is that it's not so urgent it needs doing now."