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'Lender of last resort'
The decision for the Bank of England to become the "lender of last resort" is extremely rare - and also comes after consultation with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). It is an unlimited facility, with interest rated at a "penal rate" of more than 1% above Bank base rate.
To obtain the money, the Northern Rock will have to deposit some of its customers' mortgages as collateral, which are regarded by the Bank of England as sound.