Hélène Mulholland. political reporter
First published on Thursday 25 October 2012 12.01 BST
David Cameron has hailed Britain's emergence from double-dip recession as a sign the government is "on the right track" and taking the right approach to boost growth.
Figures published on Thursday by the Office for National Statistics confirmed the economy is out of recession, having grown by 1% in the third quarter of 2012 with spending believed to have been boosted by the Olympics over the summer.
Cameron, who came under fire after official statisticians launched an inquiry into whether he had prematurely leaked the "good news" on Wednesday to score a political point at prime minister's questions, said the figures showed an "underlying picture of good positive growth" for the economy, though he acknowledged that a single quarter's data must be treated with caution.
His comments were echoed by the chancellor, George Osborne, who said the ONS data was a sign that the economy "is healing".
But the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, warned against government "complacency and wishful thinking" and called for more to be done to "secure and strengthen" growth.
Speaking during a visit to a factory in south London, the prime minister conceded there was "more to do" but he said the figures showed "good progress" and that the government was "on the right track".
He said: "We still have a long way to go and there are still difficulties ahead, but I think these figures do show that we are on the right track, we have got the right approach. We can see that with unemployment falling, also with a quarter of the deficit paid down in the last two years."
He added: "There's still much more to be done, there is a long road to travel, but we have got the right approach and we must stick with that approach. I think these figures show we are on the right track and they are accompanied, of course, by the fact that we have created one million new jobs in the private sector over the last two years. So, we have got to stick with the programme and recognise that these figures are positive."
Osborne said: "We've cut the deficit by a quarter, over one million jobs have been created in the private sector, inflation is down and the economy is growing. Yesterday's weak data from the eurozone were a reminder that we still face many economic challenges at home and abroad. By continuing to take tough decisions to deal with debt and equip our economy we are laying the foundations for lasting prosperity."
Balls welcomed the fact that Britain was "finally" out of the longest double-dip recession since the second world war, but said the government needed to take measures to catch up the ground lost over the last two years.
"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 – 12 months of damaging flatlining which has seen borrowing rise in the first half of this year, and with living standards falling, more tax rises on the way, small business lending down and the eurozone still in crisis, it would be very unwise of David Cameron and George Osborne to just sit back, cross their fingers and hope for the best.
"The complacent thing to do now is simply to wait and hope things will get better. The cautious thing to do is to act now to secure and strengthen growth in our economy."
Comparing the overall growth of 0.6% since the 2010 spending review with 3.4% in the US and 3.3% in Germany, he added: "The question for the coming months is whether and how we can catch up all the ground we have lost over the last two years and not keep falling behind as other countries move ahead."
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