Commenting ahead of today’s (Thursday) Monetary Policy Committee decision, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“We expect the MPC to keep interest rates unchanged in March. We continue to believe that interest rate increases should be postponed until later in the year, when the recovery will be more secure. But we do accept that an increase in rates is increasingly likely in the next two to three months.

“Given these circumstances, the main priority is to minimise the harmful effects of higher interest rates on the economy. Premature rate increases will affect growth and jobs, particularly in services. However if any rise in interest rates is modest it will not unleash a new recession, particularly if the Government uses the Budget to introduce growth-supporting policies.

“The continued uncertainty over interest rates risks undermining the confidence of both businesses and consumers. It is important to end this speculation before it causes serious damage. We appreciate that the MPC cannot forecast its future actions, but if higher rates are unavoidable, the Government must introduce measures to stimulate growth and ensure that the recovery is not derailed."