UK Treasury's Griffith says recession is 'not where the UK is' now

FILE PHOTO: Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit Andrew Griffith is seen outside Downing Street in London

By Jane Wardell

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Britain is not facing a recession at the moment, but more work is needed for its economy to grow at a significantly higher rate and combat inflation, UK Treasury Economic Secretary Andrew Griffith said in New York on Wednesday.

Griffith told the Reuters NEXT conference that Britain's biggest focus was to continue driving down inflation and that clearly involved choices.

Asked whether Britain was headed for a recession, Griffith said: "That's not where the UK is. There's more work to do, don't get me wrong. The point is to grow at a significantly higher rate than the UK has grown."

He said Britain was one of the fastest growing Group of Seven (G7) economies in Europe, calling that a "good start."

Britain's objective is to halve inflation this year, and forecasts show it is on track to do that, he said. "We're now in November, so we'll see how the next few weeks and months go."

He said he was concerned about the geopolitical challenges and human tragedy in the Middle East, and that Britain was using its voice in the United Nations to "look for containment and restraint."

Griffith underscored his government's commitment to a dynamic low-tax economy with high-quality public services, but said the higher priority at the moment was to lower inflation, bolster growth and reduce debt over time.

"You've got to follow that through and that's not comfortable, and sometimes the political and economic cycles are not perfectly aligned," he said. "You've got to, above all, elevate the duty to the UK people, and at the moment, that's helping with the cost of living and reducing prices."

Asked about the government's plans for financial reforms, Griffith said not all of them would require legislation and that the Conservative agenda would be achievable before elections expected next year.

"Everything that we've set out to do on our financial reform agenda, I think we can do before an autumn election," Griffith said. "We've got pretty much 12 months to run with that and we can make all the changes and start to see the benefits."

(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Writing by Dan Burns and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang)