Vince Cable has risked clashing with his coalition colleagues over reports that Britain's economy has returned to pre-recession levels.
The Business Secretary, in a series of articles for regional newspapers, warned that wage growth was sluggish and the economy remained stubbornly imbalanced. His comments came after his fellow Lib Dem, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and the Chancellor, George Osborne, trumpeted GDP figures showing growth was now at record levels.
While supporters of Mr Cable will argue that he is bringing a dose of reality to coalition triumphalism over the economy, the warnings will be seen in Downing Street and the Treasury as unhelpful, because they are in line with Labour's argument that the cost of living remains too high for many people.
Mr Cable wrote in the Yorkshire Post that the GDP figures were a "source of encouragement", but "so far in Yorkshire and the Humber, wages grew by just 0.5 per cent in the last year". In the South-west, he pointed out, "wages have only grown by 0.1 per cent in the last year".
He added: "Our recovery needs to be better balanced. Growth needs to be sustainable and we need every part of the UK to be firing on all cylinders. We cannot risk a repetition of the disastrous growth paths of the past, when it depended on consumption financed by growing personal debt, depending in turn on inflated house prices. The emphasis must be on exports, investment and new technologies."
Chris Leslie, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Vince Cable has admitted what David Cameron and George Osborne refuse to recognise about this government's economic record... wages have been growing more slowly than prices and are now down over £1,600 a year since 2010," he said.
"But Vince Cable and the Lib Dems are part of a government that's failing to tackle this cost-of-living crisis while giving millionaires a huge tax cut. Labour's economic plan will make Britain better off and fairer for the future."