Reacting to today's publication by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of Industrial and Manufacturing Output figures for April 2006, David Kern, Economic Adviser to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

"Manufacturing output recorded a small but disappointing decline in April. Today's figure is worse than expected. Most market analysts predicted an output increase in April. Though earlier figures have been revised up and this year's figures still show a welcome improvement overall, the surprising setback in April confirms our assessment that it is much too early to talk about sustained recovery.

"Manufacturing output fell by 0.2 per cent between March and April 2006. In the three months February-April 2006, manufacturing recorded a 0.6 per cent increase compared with the previous three months, but the sector showed a negligible increase of only 0.2 per cent compared with February-April 2005. To put the manufacturing figures in context, it is important to remember that the overall improvement seen in 2006 comes after a large decline of 1.1 per cent seen in 2005. The sector has recorded three full-year declines in the last five years.

David Kern concluded: "It remains critically important to nurture the fragile improvement in manufacturing. The sector still sector faces major challenges. Today's figures show that renewed setbacks are a serious risk. The new manufacturing output figures support our view that calls for higher interest rates are unjustified and should be forcefully rejected."