Two members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee voted for a cut in interest rates this month amid fears of a global economic slowdown, it was disclosed today.

The minutes of the MPC's December meeting two weeks ago show that DeAnne Julius and Sushil Wadhwani - two of the Bank's outside experts - backed a quarter point cut.

Although the MPC still voted by 7-2 to keep rates on hold at 6%, the minutes

will encourage hopes that UK rates have now peaked and that the next move will be down.

It was the first time any member of the MPC had voted for a reduction in rates since June 1999.