Trade figures relieve gloom

Britain's trade with other countries moved back into the black for the first time in nearly eight years between July and September, the Central Statistical Office said yesterday.

The economic figures relieved some of the end-of-year gloom of a disastrous final week for the Government, battered by rows over the Child Support Agency, European employment legislation, and a morale-sapping heavy defeat in the Dudley West by-election.

The current account surplus of £846m in the third quarter of the year was the biggest since the first quarter of 1986 and represented a big improvement from the £1.1bn deficit in the second quarter.

"Today's figures crown an excellent year for the British economy," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke.

But the Government is still troubled by the fact that the upturn is not feeding through into a "feel good'' factor.

Tax increases in the Budget will add a further £3.9bn to the tax burden in April, which is likely further to delay the political upturn for the Tories.

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