DAVID Cameron said yesterday’s return to economic growth shows the country is “on the right track”, as the coalition celebrated a one per cent rise in GDP.
The Prime Minister’s comments were echoed by George Osborne, who said the figures “are a sign the economy is healing”.
“We’ve cut the deficit by a quarter, over a million new jobs have been created in the private sector, inflation is down, and the economy is growing,” the chancellor added.
“By continuing to take the tough decisions needed to deal with our debts and equip our economy for the global race we’re in, this government is laying the foundations for lasting prosperity.”
The coalition government’s economic policy is based on a political gamble that short-term unpopularity will be irrelevant if the country has returned to sustained growth by the time of the 2015 general election.
Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson, said his party had always known “it would be a choppy road to recovery” but they “needed to create the right conditions to support growth and deal with the deficit”.
Although Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls welcomed the figures he insisted it “is no time for complacency and wishful thinking”, while pointing out that much of the growth was “with the help of the Olympics”.
“Today’s figures show that underlying growth remains weak and that our economy is only just back to the same size as a year ago,” he added.
Meanwhile David Cameron continued to face criticism after he apparently let slip that the GDP figures would be positive in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
During Prime Minister’s Questions he said “the good news will keep coming”, having received an advance copy of the market-sensitive data 24 hours before publication.
While almost all observers had expected a return to growth, early release of the data is against the law.
Downing Street insist that Cameron was making a general point about the economy. But last night Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to the Prime Minister to ask for the rules on pre-release access to be changed because the current arrangements could “undermine public confidence in official statistics”.