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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Still Growing, Clarke Assures Public

LONDON -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke on Thursday played down indications of faltering growth and said Britain's recovery was getting stronger.

"We do have the best recovery of any economy in Europe," Clarke said in a radio interview. "The recovery is getting stronger."

Earlier Thursday the British Chambers of Commerce, or BCC, had published a survey of business opinion that found that the pace of recovery was slowing, particularly in the service sector.

Manufacturing enjoyed slightly better growth, both in exports and domestic sales, but the BCC said the service sector had "reached a plateau of fairly static growth."

"The recovery is continuing, but ... it is not yet strong enough to have a significant impact on employment," said BCC president Christopher Stewart-Smith.

The downbeat survey came on top of data on Wednesday showing retail sales fell 0.2 percent in December, contradicting reports from retailers that business was good ahead of Christmas.

However, Clarke said he found encouraging aspects in the survey. Manufacturing output was rising, and manufacturers were more optimistic than last year, he said.

A separate survey on consumer confidence published Thursday showed Britons were adopting a cautious stance on spending ahead of sharp tax rises due to cost the average British family ?9 a week from April.

But Clarke said the economy was now robust enough to take the tax rises "in its stride." The increases "obviously take a bit of an edge off consumer demand," Clarke said, but the recovery would not be halted.