British finance minister George Osborne welcomed first-quarter economic growth data on Thursday that showed the country avoided a return to recession.

"Today's figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing. Despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress," Osborne said in a statement.

Britain's gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent in the first quarter after shrinking by 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in late 2012, official data showed.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Susan Fenton)