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Labour a threat to recovery, claims Chancellor

LABOUR are now the biggest threat to the UK's economic recovery, George Osborne claimed as the Coalition hailed the latest growth figures - 1.9% for 2013 - as evidence its austerity programme is working.

The Chancellor told MPs: "By being anti-business, they are anti-recovery, anti-jobs, anti-investment, anti-the British people."

But Labour's Ed Balls, while welcoming the growth figures, said they were long overdue after three damaging years of flat-lining. "For working people facing a cost of living crisis," declared the Shadow Chancellor, "this is still no recovery at all."

Frances O'Grady of the TUC stressed that this was the "wrong kind of recovery" and was two years late.

"The recovery is yet to reach whole swathes of the country or feed into people's pay packets. This must change if the benefits of recovery are to be felt by both businesses and workers," she added.

John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Secretary, argued that the recovery was happening not because of the Lib-Con Coalition's policies but in spite of them. "As a result, growth forecasts are now 5.9% lower than originally predicted and borrowing is £197bn higher."

He added that Scotland was faring better economically because it had "taken a different route where possible" and stressed with the full powers of independence it could do much more.

But Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, insisted: "Scotland continues to do well as part of the UK with Scottish figures showing the economy here grew by 0.7% and is up 2.1% compared to a year ago with key industry sectors showing positive growth."

He said Scotland's economic performance was comparable to that of the UK's as a whole emphasised falling inflation, a recovering labour market and with both the World Bank and the IMF expecting even higher growth this year.

Although the UK economy grew by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, this was slightly down from the third quarter of 0.8%. Yet the whole-year figure was 1.9%, the fastest growth rate seen since 2007.

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