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Britain's economy 'not yet secure'


Chancellor George Osborne is heading to a G20 summit in Australia

Chancellor George Osborne is heading to a G20 summit in Australia

Chancellor George Osborne is heading to a G20 summit in Australia

Chancellor George Osborne said next month's Budget will continue to confront Britain's problems as he cautioned the recovery was "not yet secure" despite a recent surge in growth.

In a speech to business leaders in Hong Kong ahead of this weekend's G20 Finance ministers meeting in Australia, Mr Osborne said it would be a "huge mistake" to consider the job done in repairing the UK's battered finances.

While he cheered a marked improvement in the economy and jobs market, he said plans must remain in place to slash the deficit and national debt.

He said: "Some in Britain might be tempted to say: job done, let's avoid more hard decisions.

"That would be a huge mistake. Abandon the plan and we abandon the progress we've made and go back to square one."

"I said that we have to go on dealing with our debt and our deficit - and we have no choice but to do so," he added.

His comments follow a sharp upgrade to UK growth forecasts from the Bank of England last week, which predicts growth of 3.4% this year, up from 2.8% previously.

Gross domestic product grew by 0.8% in the third quarter of 2013 and by 0.7% in the final three months of the year, although Bank experts believe fourth quarter growth will be revised up to around 0.9%.

But Bank governor Mark Carney stressed the recovery had been ''neither balanced nor sustainable'' and required continued support.

Mr Osborne echoed the Bank's comments as he said "as well as reasons to be cheerful, there are also reasons to be careful".

Exports continue to lag behind imports and much of the economic growth has so far been spurred on by consumer spending.

He said: "The recovery is not yet secure and our economy is still too unbalanced.

"We cannot rely on consumers alone for our economic growth, as we did in previous decades. And we cannot put all our chips on the success of the City of London, as my predecessors did. Britain is not investing enough. Britain is not exporting enough."

He said the Budget on March 19 will support business investment and exports to lay foundations for "long-term economic security".

He added it will be a Budget that "ensures that around the world, wherever you are, you can't help but see 'Made in Britain'".

"That's the Budget I'm going to deliver."

Responding to extracts from Mr Osborne's speech in Hong Kong, Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "George Osborne is finally recognising that the recovery, which he choked off in 2010, is still not secure or balanced. But he has not yet admitted that working people are facing a cost-of-living crisis and are £1,600 a year worse off since he became Chancellor.

"We need action to secure a stronger recovery and earn our way to higher living standards for all. That's why we have called for action to boost housing supply, reform of our banks and energy markets, an expansion of free childcare to make work pay and a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed."