The nine members of the Bank of England's interest-setting Monetary Policy Committee regained their unanimity earlier this month when they all agreed to leave the Bank's official rate unchanged at 4.5 per cent.

Most unusually, though, minutes of their meeting on September 7 and 8 gave no summary of views expressed by members debating the decision, saying only that they "attached slightly different weights to the various risks".

These were largely associated with the impact and future course of oil prices. But the minutes recorded a view that probably less than half the pick-up in inflation over the past 12 months was related the the direct and indirect effects of oil prices.

The minutes coincided with a Reuters poll of 40 economists asking them to predict future moves in the cost of borrowing.

Twenty-eight of them said the Bank will cut its rate again this year or next - 11 this year, and 13 in the first quarter of 2006.

Six saw no further change throughout next year and another six an increase.

The divisions in the MPC that led to a five-to-four vote to cut interest rates in August, reemerged in yesterday's minutes in an account of the "dilemma for monetary policy" posed by the continued rise in the price of oil.

"The key question" said the minutes "was how to chose an interest rate path that kept inflation expectations well-anchored." One option was to " accommodate the first-round impact of higher oil prices and allow inflation to rise temporarily above the (two per cent) target".

If pay deals did not rise in line with this inflation, the loss of spending power would then hold overall inflation down. But there was also a risk that expectations of rising inflation would be reflected in rising wage settlements.

Alternatively, the committee could raise interest rates to bring inflation back to the target more quickly, limiting any change in inflationary expectations. But this would be at the expense of a slower economy and lost jobs.

The minutes record that committee members noted that the upward revision to earlier estimates of Britain's economic growth in the second quarter of this year still left it slightly below its long-run average. It looked as if the third-quarter would be broadly similar.

The growth of consumer spending had also been weaker than expected - although that might be because spending by British travellers abroad had been under-reported.

Unnamed committee members also pointed out that if spending, business investment and the euro zone economy all remain weak, then economic growth and inflation could turn out weaker than indicated in the Bank's Inflation Report last month.

The rise in the value of the pound could also push inflation down. "There remained a risk that oil prices could rise further. This posed an upside risk to the inflation projection," the minutes said.

"But there were few signs of any second-round effects arising yet from the increase in oil prices.

" Inflation expectations appeared to be well-anchored, though there was no room for complacency."

The minutes coincided with a report from the European Commission in Brussels accusing Chancellor Gordon Brown of breaching the EU's rules for budget deficits.

"Although the deficit is close to the reference value (laid down by the European Stability and Growth pact) it has been above three per cent for the past two years and may not be corrected in the on-going financial year," the Commission said.

Although Britain is not a member of the euro zone, it is supposed to try to avoid Budget deficits of more than three per cent - a limit repeatedly exceeded by France, Germany and other euro countries.