Cameron welcomes pick-up in UK GDP growth

Growth in the UK economy picked up at the end of 2015 although the annual expansion rate was held back by the global economic slowdown, official figures showed on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that GDP growth in the fourth quarter had increased to 0.5 per cent from 0.4 per cent in the third quarter, but the annual growth rate for 2015 had been 2.2 per cent, some 0.7 per cent smaller than 2014.ONS data coincided with an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron of a £250 million package to support the North Sea oil industry, which has been under severe strain following the plummeting price of oil over the past year.Prime Minister David Cameron described the latest ONS figures as "good news that the economy is growing steadily, meaning more jobs and security for people. Global risks mean we will stick to our plan".Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the data showed that the UK economy "continues to grow steadily and, despite turbulence in global economy, we're pushing ahead". He added, "With the risks we see elsewhere in the world, there may be bumpy times ahead – so here in the UK we must stick to the plan that's cutting the deficit, attracting business investment and creating jobs."Rain Newton-Smith, director of economics at the Confederation of British Industry, commented, "The UK economy ended 2015 in decent health, but it's clear that some sectors are having a tough time. Manufacturers are still feeling the hit from weaker global growth and competitive pressures from abroad. And while low oil prices are a boon for the economy as a whole, businesses in the North Sea industry are suffering."That's why the North Sea oil support package announced by the Prime Minister is positive and the government must continue to engage with industry closely to help ensure a smooth transition to lower oil prices."While the economy should see decent growth over 2016, global risks have ramped up noticeably – particularly with prospects for emerging markets looking weaker, bearing down on the outlook for the world economy."The Institute of Directors (IoD) described the ONS data as showing the economy enjoyed "sustainable" growth in the fourth quarter of 2015.James Sproule, IoD chief economist, said, "After volatility in the financial markets during the first few weeks of the year, these GDP figures should settle nerves about the health of the real economy. Growth of 0.5 per cent a quarter is far from remarkable, but with services continuing to power the recovery, and housebuilding expected to undergo something of a revival as the year progresses, this expansion looks sustainable."Across the economy, high levels of debt remain a concern – especially at this point in the cycle. This debt bubble can still be deflated with effective monetary policy and it would be wise to take action before it becomes unmanageable."Ben Bretell, senior economist at Hargreaves Landsdown, commented, "Your interpretation of today's gross domestic product figures will depend on whether you take a 'glass half full' or a 'glass half empty' view of the UK economy. The bigger picture is that growth remains lacklustre, but reasonably resilient."

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