The Bank of England said it would slow the pace of its bond-buying as it sharply increased its forecast for Britain's economic growth this year after its coronavirus slump.

But it stressed that it was not tightening monetary policy.

The Bank of England kept its benchmark interest rate at an all-time low of 0.1% and the total size of its bond-buying programme unchanged at £895 billion, as expected by economists polled by Reuters.

The central bank said it would slow its bond-buying to £3.4 billion a week, down from its current pace of £4.4 billion a week.

"The expected completion point of the purchase programme remained unchanged. This operational decision should not be interpreted as a change in the stance of monetary policy," the Bank of England said.

So far, most central banks in rich countries around the world have stressed they are in no hurry to scale back huge the amounts of support they have provided for their economies.

But the Bank of Canada said last month it could start to raise rates by late 2022 and it pared back its bond-buying.

The bank's chief economist Andy Haldane, who has warned of a possible jump in inflation, cast a lone vote to cut the size of the bond-buying programme by £50 billion.

The Bank of England raised its forecast for UK economic growth in 2021 to 7.25% from a previous estimate of 5% made in February.

The increase reflected a smaller-than-feared hit from a third coronavirus lockdown which began in January and the extension of higher public spending and tax cuts announced by finance minister Rishi Sunak in March.

The Bank of England said it now expected unemployment to rise only slightly to a peak of almost 5.5% in the third quarter of this year, when Sunak's jobs protection programme is due to expire.

But it lowered its projection for growth in 2022 to 5.75% from its previous estimate of 7.25%.

The bank also said the UK economy was set to return to its pre-pandemic size in the last quarter of 2021, a bit earlier than its February projection of the first quarter of 2022.

It forecast consumer price inflation to be fractionally below its 2% target in two years' time, based on expectations in financial markets which saw its Bank Rate at 0.3% at that point.