UK Politics

Miliband and Cameron clash over UK GDP figures

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Media captionPMQs: David Cameron claimed Labour was 'desperate' for a double-dip in the economy

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed in the House of Commons over the latest UK growth figures.

The prime minister told MPs that the 0.5% increase in GDP in the first quarter of this year was "good news" and accused Labour of "talking the economy down".

But the Labour leader accused him of "extraordinary complacency" and said the economy had "flatlined".

The 0.5% increase cancels out the 0.5% contraction at the end of 2010.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the manufacturing and services sectors performed well in January to March 2011, but construction output fell sharply by 4.7%.

The 0.5% overall increase was less than the 0.8% forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

'Opportunism'

In the first prime minister's questions since the Easter recess, Mr Cameron admitted the construction industry figures were "disappointing", but said overall the news was positive.

"What is encouraging in the figures is that the British economy is growing once again, manufacturing is up, exports are up, and we are seeing a rebalancing of the economy so we are not over-reliant on private consumption."

The PM accused Mr Miliband of "blatant opportunism", saying: "The Right Honourable Gentleman was desperate for the economy to shrink today.

"He'd written his questions, he'd come to the house. The only problem was the economy was growing, not shrinking.

"It's time to admit he was wrong about the deficit and wrong about the economy."

But Mr Miliband said the government's austerity measures had led to the "lowest consumer confidence ever" and it was impossible to claim the GDP figures were good news.

"What world is he living in? What extraordinary complacency," he said.

"Six months ago, what did he tell us? That we were out of the danger zone. Since then there's been no growth at all in the British economy."

Economists have given gave a mixed response to the figures.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that given the "fragility of the recovery", the government must "persevere with policies that support growth, and remove the obstacles that prevent businesses from creating jobs and exporting".

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