A record number of Britons, more than 100,000, filed for bankruptcy protection in record numbers last year as rising interest rates forced consumers to default on swelling debts.

Individual insolvencies in England and Wales rose 59% from 2005, to 107,288, the Department for Trade and Industry said Friday on its Web site. The total was the highest since records began in 1960.

In the fourth quarter personal bankruptcies rose 7.1% from the previous quarter and 44% from a year earlier, to 29,804, the department said. British consumer debt equaled 104% of the gross domestic product as of June 30, compared with 92% in the United States, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said in November. Total outstanding U.K. debt reached $2.6 trillion in December.

Last year's surge in bankruptcies reflects an increase in so-called individual voluntary arrangements, which allow people to write off most of their debt and make gradual repayments on the remaining amount.

The increase in such arrangements helped fuel a 50% jump in bad debts in the first half at Barclays PLC.

British banks are rejecting more debt plans as they try to curtail rising consumer defaults, which have hurt profits. Lenders have criticized the marketing of some individual voluntary arrangements, saying they are unsuitable for some of the consumers getting them.

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