Business leaders, in the West Midlands, are confident that interest rates will remain at 4.75 today, as the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee tries not to rock the boat during the General Election campaign.

And there is concern that with the troubles of the car industry and the threat to MG Rover a rise is the last thing the region needs.

Many pundits think rates will go up, but not until the summer.

Jerry Blackett, policy director at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "It would be somewhat provocative of the MPC to decide that a rise of a quarter to five cent was in order while politicians are busy telling us how they will keep down costs.

"And that's good news for business. Steady as you are is a much better scenario for companies than a roller-coaster ride of everchanging rates. There is much to be anxious about in the West Midlands economy at the moment, and increasing interest-rates will not help to alleviate that situation one little bit."

Jane Jackson, Solihull Chamber director, said: "It will be interesting to see, rather like Prince Charles' wedding, whether the MPC changes the date of its next announcement on interest rates. At the moment, it is scheduled for the same day as the General Election - May 5.

"With a slowdown in consumer spending and houseprice rises, the MPC would seem to have resolved the issues it most thought would drive up inflation. Now it should concentrate on helping business to be more competitive in overseas markets."

Peter Mathews, president of Midlands World Trade Forum, said: "The MPC has to take into account that not only do the current interest rates make for an uncompetitive environment, in which, to do business, but that the sky-high oil prices are having an adverse effect on everything we do.

"There has to be a hint of realism in the MPC's thinking. British businesses cannot go on fighting for new markets with one hand tied behind its back."

Lobby group Birmingham Forward is also hoping the MPC will hold interest rates steady.

Ronnie Bowker, managing partner at accountants Ernst & Young and board member of Birmingham Forward, said: "The MPC has a track record of keeping interest rates steady during periods of political uncertainty. Before the Budget we saw no change and we are hoping this remains the case in the run-up to the General Election.

"Interest rates were last raised in August 2004, eight months ago. Against a backdrop of soaring oil-prices and pressure on commodities like steel, this has been really good news for local businesses.

"In the Midlands, we are all watching the progress of MG Rover's deal with the Chinese with bated breath.

"If this fails, there will be a significant impact in the region, with companies throughout the supply chain being affected. A hike in interest rates will only have a negative impact and so is another strong argument in our case for keeping them static.

"But, as we now know the MPC's decision last month was not unanimous, supporting the view that the economic messages are a little mixed. Consumer debt is still high and so inflation continues to be a threat.

"In contrast though, many retailers are suffering as the spending hoped for over Easter does not seem to have materialised. Add to this the fact that house prices are still stagnant or dropping and it is clear there are viable arguments for both a rise or a drop.

"With this complex economic position and as the election campaigns get fully underway, it is reassuring that control of interest rates rests with the MPC, not the politicians asking for our votes.

"The best thing for Birmingham businesses is for there to be no change in interest rates"