No threat to Bank of England monetary policy independence - Chancellor

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The Chancellor has insisted the Government will not seek to change monetary policy despite Theresa May's swipe at the impact of quantitative easing (QE) and low interest rates.

Philip Hammond indicated that the independence of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee was not under threat, but hinted the Government could take action to limit the damage for people hit by its actions.

The Prime Minister used her Tory conference speech to launch a surprise attack on the Bank, saying there had been "bad side-effects" from its moves to slash interest rates and shore up the economy since the financial crisis and promising "a change has got to come".

Mr Hammond, who refused to say whether he had seen the Prime Minister's speech in advance, told the Treasury Select Committee: "My understanding is that what the Prime Minister was trying to say is that we recognise that monetary policy, which is an important tool of macroeconomic policy, has a distributional impact.

"And, to the extent the Government believes that distributional impact needs to be addressed or corrected, we also have tools available to us to do that."

Mrs May said the results of the Bank's actions had meant "people with assets have got richer" but those without had "suffered".

While home-owners had found mortgages cheaper as a result of low interest rates, people with savings had been left poorer.

Mr Hammond was asked what Mrs May's promised "change" referred to if it was not monetary policy.

He said: "I think it is a reference to the overall outcome, recognising that monetary policy is the responsibility of the Monetary Policy Committee - which is independent and we have no plans to change the way monetary policy is delivered or managed in this country - and fiscal policy, which has the ability, should government choose, to correct any of the distributional outcomes."

Mr Hammond stressed: "There will be no change in monetary policy. Monetary policy is independently determined, that will continue to be the case.

"The Monetary Policy Committee will continue to make decisions on interest rates and recommendations on unconventional monetary policy."