Governor and Company of the Bank of England
In 2009, a request made to HM Treasury
under the Freedom of Information Act
sought details about the 3% Bank of England stock owned by unnamed shareholders whose identity the Bank is not at liberty to disclose.
In a letter of reply dated 15 October 2009, HM Treasury explained that. 'Some of the 3% Treasury stock which was used to compensate former owners of Bank stock has not been redeemed. However, interest is paid out twice a year and it is not the case that this has been accumulating and compounding.' 
The Bank became an independent public organisation in 1998, wholly owned by the Treasury Solicitor
on behalf of the government,
but with independence in setting monetary policy.
As a regulator and central bank, the Bank of England has not offered consumer banking services for many years, but it still does manage some public-facing services such as exchanging superseded bank notes.
Until 2016, the bank provided personal banking services as a privilege for employees.
Sealing of the Bank of England Charter (1694), by Lady Jane Lindsay, 1905
's crushing defeat by France
, the dominant naval power, in naval engagements culminating in the 1690 Battle of Beachy Head
, became the catalyst for England to rebuild itself as a global power. William III
's government wanted to build a naval fleet that would rival that of France; however, the ability to construct this fleet was hampered both by a lack of available public funds and the low credit of the English government in London. This lack of credit made it impossible for the English government to borrow the £1,200,000 (at 8% per annum) that it wanted for the construction of the fleet.
To induce subscription to the loan, the subscribers were to be incorporated
by the name of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England. The Bank was given exclusive possession of the government's balances, and was the only limited-liability corporation allowed to issue bank notes.
The lenders would give the government cash (bullion) and issue notes against the government bonds, which can be lent again. The £1.2 million was raised in 12 days; half of this was used to rebuild the navy.
The establishment of the bank was devised[clarification needed]
by Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax
, in 1694. The plan of 1691, which had been proposed by William Paterson
three years before, had not then been acted upon.
58 years earlier, in 1636, Financier to the king, Philip Burlamachi
, had proposed exactly the same idea in a letter addressed to Sir Francis Windebank
He proposed a loan of £1.2 million to the government; in return the subscribers would be incorporated as The Governor and Company of the Bank of England
with long-term banking privileges including the issue of notes. The royal charter
was granted on 27 July through the passage of the Tonnage Act 1694
Public finances were in such dire condition at the time
that the terms of the loan were that it was to be serviced at a rate of 8% per annum, and there was also a service charge of £4,000 per annum for the management of the loan. The first governor was Sir John Houblon
, who is depicted in the £50 note
issued in 1994. The charter was renewed in 1742, 1764, and 1781.
Satirical cartoon protesting against the introduction of paper money, by James Gillray
, 1797. The "Old Lady of Threadneedle St" (the Bank personified) is ravished by William Pitt the Younger
The Bank's original home was in Walbrook, a street in the City of London, where during reconstruction in 1954 archaeologists found the remains of a Roman temple of Mithras
(Mithras is – rather fittingly – said to have been worshipped as, amongst other things, the God of Contracts);
the Mithraeum ruins are perhaps the most famous of all 20th-century Roman discoveries in the City of London and can be viewed by the public.
The Bank moved to its current location in Threadneedle Street in 1734,
and thereafter slowly acquired neighbouring land to create the site necessary for erecting the Bank's original home at this location, under the direction of its chief architect Sir John Soane
, between 1790 and 1827. (Sir Herbert Baker
's rebuilding of the Bank in the first half of the 20th century, demolishing most of Soane's masterpiece, was described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner
as "the greatest architectural crime, in the City of London
, of the twentieth century".)
Bank of England, from Microcosm of London, c. 1808
Bank Stock of the Bank of England, issued 25. January 1876
The 1844 Bank Charter Act
tied the issue of notes to the gold reserves and gave the Bank sole rights with regard to the issue of banknotes. Private banks that had previously had that right retained it, provided that their headquarters were outside London and that they deposited security against the notes that they issued. A few English banks continued to issue their own notes until the last of them was taken over in the 1930s. Scottish and Northern Irish private banks still have that right.
The last private bank in England to issue its own notes was Thomas Fox's Fox, Fowler and Company
bank in Wellington
, which rapidly expanded, until it merged with Lloyds Bank in 1927. They were legal tender until 1964. There are nine notes left in circulation; one is housed at Tone Dale House
Britain was on the gold standard
until 1931, when the Bank of England unilaterally and abruptly took Britain off the gold standard.
The Bank pursued the multiple goals of Keynesian economics after 1945, especially "easy money" and low interest rates to support aggregate demand. It tried to keep a fixed exchange rate, and attempted to deal with inflation and sterling weakness by credit and exchange controls.
In 1977, the Bank set up a wholly owned subsidiary called Bank of England Nominees Limited
(BOEN), a now defunct private limited company, with two of its hundred £1 shares issued. According to its Memorandum & Articles of Association, its objectives were: "To act as Nominee or agent or attorney either solely or jointly with others, for any person or persons, partnership, company, corporation, government, state, organisation, sovereign, province, authority, or public body, or any group or association of them...." Bank of England Nominees Limited was granted an exemption by Edmund Dell
, Secretary of State for Trade, from the disclosure requirements under Section 27(9) of the Companies Act 1976, because "it was considered undesirable that the disclosure requirements should apply to certain categories of shareholders." The Bank of England is also protected by its royal charter
status, and the Official Secrets Act
BOEN was a vehicle for governments and heads of state to invest in UK companies (subject to approval from the Secretary of State), providing they undertake "not to influence the affairs of the company".
In its later years, BOEN was no longer exempt from company law disclosure requirements.
Although a dormant company
dormancy does not preclude a company actively operating as a nominee shareholder.
BOEN had two shareholders: the Bank of England, and the Secretary of the Bank of England.
The reserve requirement
for banks to hold a minimum fixed proportion of their deposits as reserves at the Bank of England was abolished in 1981: see reserve requirement
for more details. The contemporary transition from Keynesian economics to Chicago economics was analysed by Nicholas Kaldor
in The Scourge of Monetarism
On 6 May 1997, following the 1997 general election
that brought a Labour government to power for the first time since 1979, it was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown
, that the Bank would be granted operational independence over monetary policy.
Under the terms of the Bank of England Act 1998 (which came into force on 1 June 1998), the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee
was given sole responsibility for setting interest rates to meet the Government's Retail Prices Index
(RPI) inflation target of 2.5%.
The target has changed to 2% since the Consumer Price Index
(CPI) replaced the Retail Prices Index as the Treasury's inflation index.
If inflation overshoots or undershoots the target by more than 1%, the Governor has to write a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
explaining why, and how he will remedy the situation.
The success of inflation targeting
in the United Kingdom has been attributed to the Bank's focus on transparency.
The Bank of England has been a leader in producing innovative ways of communicating information to the public, especially through its Inflation Report, which has been emulated by many other central banks.
Independent central banks that adopt an inflation target are known as Friedmanite
central banks. This change in Labour's politics was described by Skidelsky
in The Return of the Master
as a mistake and as an adoption of the Rational Expectations Hypothesis
as promulgated by Walters
Inflation targets combined with central bank independence have been characterised as a "starve the beast" strategy creating a lack of money in the public sector.
assumed the post of Governor of the Bank of England
on 1 July 2013. He succeeded Mervyn King
, who took over on 30 June 2003. Carney, a Canadian, was to serve an initial five-year term rather than the typical eight. He became the first Governor not to be a UK citizen, but has since been granted citizenship.
At Government request, his term was extended to 2019, then again to 2020.
As of January 2014, the Bank also has four Deputy Governors
BOEN was dissolved, following liquidation, in July 2017.
Two main areas are tackled by the Bank to ensure it carries out these functions efficiently:
Note: It is important to note that "monetary" and "financial" are synonyms.
Stable prices and confidence in the currency are the two main criteria for monetary stability. Stable prices are maintained by seeking to ensure that price increases meet the Government's inflation target. The Bank aims to meet this target by adjusting the base interest rate
, which is decided by the Monetary Policy Committee
, and through its communications strategy, such as publishing yield curves
Maintaining financial stability involves protecting against threats to the whole financial system. Threats are detected by the Bank's surveillance and market intelligence
functions. The threats are then dealt with through financial and other operations, both at home and abroad. In exceptional circumstances, the Bank may act as the lender of last resort
by extending credit when no other institution will.
The Bank works together with other institutions to secure both monetary and financial stability, including:
- HM Treasury, the Government department responsible for financial and economic policy; and
- Other central banks and international organisations, with the aim of improving the international financial system.
The 1997 memorandum of understanding
describes the terms under which the Bank, the Treasury and the FSA work toward the common aim of increased financial stability.
In 2010, the incoming Chancellor announced his intention to merge the FSA back into the Bank. As of 2012, the current director for financial stability is Andy Haldane
The Bank acts as the government's banker, and it maintains the government's Consolidated Fund
account. It also manages the country's foreign exchange
and gold reserves
. The Bank also acts as the bankers' bank, especially in its capacity as a lender of last resort.
The Bank has a monopoly on the issue of banknotes
in England and Wales. Scottish and Northern Irish banks retain the right to issue their own banknotes, but they must be backed one-for-one with deposits at the Bank, excepting a few million pounds representing the value of notes they had in circulation in 1845. The Bank decided to sell its banknote-printing operations to De La Rue
in December 2002, under the advice of Close Brothers Corporate Finance Ltd.
Since 1998, the Monetary Policy Committee
(MPC) has had the responsibility for setting the official interest rate. However, with the decision to grant the Bank operational independence, responsibility for government debt management was transferred in 1998 to the new Debt Management Office
, which also took over government cash management in 2000. Computershare
took over as the registrar for UK Government bonds (gilt-edged securities
) from the Bank at the end of 2004.
The Bank used to be responsible for the regulation and supervision of the banking and insurance industries. This responsibility was transferred to the Financial Services Authority in June 1998, but after the financial crises in 2008 new banking legislation transferred the responsibility for regulation and supervision of the banking and insurance industries back to the Bank.
In 2011, the interim Financial Policy Committee
(FPC) was created as a mirror committee to the MPC to spearhead the Bank's new mandate on financial stability. The FPC is responsible for macro prudential regulation of all UK banks and insurance companies.
To help maintain economic stability, the Bank attempts to broaden understanding of its role, both through regular speeches and publications by senior Bank figures, a semiannual Financial Stability Report,
and through a wider education strategy aimed at the general public. It currently maintains a free museum
and ran the Target Two Point Zero
competition for A-level students, closing in 2017.
The Bank has operated, since January 2009, an Asset Purchase Facility (APF) to buy "high-quality assets financed by the issue of Treasury bills and the DMO
's cash management operations" and thereby improve liquidity in the credit markets.
It has, since March 2009, also provided the mechanism by which the Bank's policy of quantitative easing
(QE) is achieved, under the auspices of the MPC. Along with the managing the £200 billion of QE funds, the APF continues to operate its corporate facilities. Both are undertaken by a subsidiary company of the Bank of England, the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund Limited (BEAPFF).
The Bank has issued banknotes since 1694. Notes were originally hand-written; although they were partially printed from 1725 onwards, cashiers still had to sign each note and make them payable to someone. Notes were fully printed from 1855. Until 1928 all notes were "White Notes", printed in black and with a blank reverse. In the 18th and 19th centuries White Notes were issued in £1 and £2 denominations. During the 20th century White Notes were issued in denominations between £5 and £1000.
Until the mid-19th century, commercial banks were allowed to issue their own banknotes, and notes issued by provincial banking companies were commonly in circulation.
The Bank Charter Act 1844
began the process of restricting note issue to the Bank; new banks were prohibited from issuing their own banknotes and existing note-issuing banks were not permitted to expand their issue. As provincial banking companies merged to form larger banks, they lost their right to issue notes, and the English private banknote eventually disappeared, leaving the Bank with a monopoly of note issue in England and Wales. The last private bank to issue its own banknotes in England and Wales was Fox, Fowler and Company
However, the limitations of the 1844 Act only affected banks in England and Wales, and today three commercial banks in Scotland and four in Northern Ireland continue to issue their own banknotes
, regulated by the Bank.
At the start of the First World War
, the Currency and Bank Notes Act 1914
was passed, which granted temporary powers to HM Treasury
for issuing banknotes to the values of £1 and 10/- (ten shillings). Treasury notes had full legal tender status and were not convertible into gold through the Bank; they replaced the gold coin in circulation to prevent a run on sterling and to enable raw material purchases for armament production. These notes featured an image of King George V
(Bank of England notes did not begin to display an image of the monarch until 1960). The wording on each note was:
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND – Currency notes are Legal Tender for the payment of any amount – Issued by the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury under the Authority of Act of Parliament (4 & 5 Geo. V c.14).
Treasury notes were issued until 1928, when the Currency and Bank Notes Act 1928
returned note-issuing powers to the banks.
The Bank of England issued notes for ten shillings
and one pound for the first time on 22 November 1928.
During the Second World War the German Operation Bernhard
attempted to counterfeit denominations between £5 and £50, producing 500,000 notes each month in 1943. The original plan was to parachute the money into the UK in an attempt to destabilise the British economy, but it was found more useful to use the notes to pay German agents operating throughout Europe. Although most fell into Allied
hands at the end of the war, forgeries frequently appeared for years afterwards, which led banknote denominations above £5 to be removed from circulation.
The bank is custodian to the official gold reserves of the United Kingdom and around 30 other countries.
As of April 2016, the bank held around 400,000 bars, which is equivalent to 5,134 tonnes (5,659 tons) of gold. These gold deposits were estimated in August 2018 to have a current market value of approximately £200 billion.
These estimates suggest the vault could hold as much as 3% of the gold mined throughout human history.
Governance of the Bank of England
Following is a list of the governors of the Bank of England since the beginning of the 20th century:
Court of Directors
The Court of Directors is a unitary board that is responsible for setting the organisation's strategy and budget and taking key decisions on resourcing and appointments. It consists of five executive members from the Bank plus up to 9 non-executive members, all of whom are appointed by the Crown. The Chancellor selects the Chairman of the Court from among the non-executive members. The Court is required to meet at least 7 times a year.
The Governor serves for a period of eight years, the Deputy Governors for five years, and the non-executive members for up to four years.
Court of Directors (2019)
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