By Marcus Leach

The UK economy is improving, and in a sustainable manner, according to John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Speaking at the BCC's International Trade Conference in London today (Thursday) Mr Longworth said that whilst the growth the UK is witnessing is good, we could have great growth. That must now be the focus of the economy, with trade at the heart of it.

“There is no question in my mind that the UK economy is improving," Longworth told delegates at Central Hall Westminster.

“As a leading forecaster on the economy, the British Chambers of Commerce predicted 1.3% growth this year, 2.2% next year and 2.5% in 2015. I am pleased to see that the International Monetary Fund have now caught up with us and produced a similar figure for 2013.

“Of course, all of this is dependent on no external shocks. We have this week been on the edge of a precipice given the US debt crisis. A US default would have been very disruptive, given that the dollar is the reserve currency. We are not yet out of woods with this temporary respite. We also still have the house of cards called the Eurozone just next door. And then there is the Middle East and the uncertainty which that brings."

Longworth went on to say that we should be aiming for a greater level of growth, especially given that he believes we have the talent and resources required for a great economy.

“All things being equal however, we do have good growth in prospect. Just good growth, when we could have truly, great growth," he added.

“We should be aiming for north of 3%, and why not? We have all the talent, the enterprise, the know-how and the creativity we need for a truly great economy. But to really utilise this, we need an environment that supports enterprise, and that means not just any old growth, but the right kind of growth, for a long term, sustainable and wealth creating economy.

“We don't want to see, once again, the body being resuscitated and on the life support of consumer borrowing and spending, just so those businesses that are distant or divorced from the national interest and the vested interests of Whitehall, can suck out the life blood until we have another national, cardiac arrest.

“The Prime Minister has talked about the vital need to rebalance the economy. Part of that rebalancing is towards exports. If we are to succeed in this vital task and contribute towards positive growth, we need to have, in the UK, the bedrock for recovery, so that businesses can do business.

“We need to make sure that enterprises, not just large businesses, have access to finance, to grow and fulfil orders, not least from overseas. We need the vital infrastructure to move goods, to do business and to communicate - roads and railways; hub airport connectivity and seaports; digital infrastructure, a long term energy security strategy - to ensure a dependable energy supply at least cost and not just a peripheral, green energy policy. We also need knowledge and skills in our people."

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