Economy shrinks by 0.3%
Today's fall in GDP is a "reminder" of the difficulties Britain faces, George Osborne has said.
GDP fell by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012, heightening fears the economy might suffer a triple-dip recession.
The Chancellor said the figure was "a reminder today that Britain faces a very difficult economic situation" and he insisted the Government had the right policies in place.
"We have got the right plan but of course it is not a plan that was ever going deliver results overnight. We said from the start, it was a long, it was a hard road but it was the only road this country could walk done," he told Sky News.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this evening said the Government was "making progress" on the economy, but warned of a "long, painstaking" recovery.
"We’re making progress: we’ve cut the deficit by a quarter, a million jobs in the private sector, but there is some way to go before the recovery really takes root," the Lib Dem leader told BBC Look North.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the figures exposed the failure of the Government's economic strategy.
“I’m afraid that they show that David Cameron and George Osborne have been asleep at the wheel for the last two years," he told the BBC.
ONS economist Joe Grice said the economy was "close to flat", but also stressed that problems with North Sea oil fields had made a significant difference to the estimate.
"The mining and quarrying sector was seriously affected by extended and seasonally late maintenance to the North Sea oil fields - that effect reduced the estimate of GDP by about 0.2%," he said.
"The economy was probably, in underlying terms, close to flat. It extends the pattern that we've seen now for some time of a bumpy economy but on a rather sluggish trend."