The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) annual rate of inflation rose to 4.4% in February, up from 4% in January.

The rise was driven by higher food, petrol and clothing costs, and was the highest level for more than two years.

Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation, which includes mortgage interest payments, rose to 5.5% from 5.1%, the highest rate for 20 years.

The CPI figure is the highest since October 2008, and could put pressure on the Bank of England to rise interest rates to curb inflation.

The Office of National Statistics said the largest inflationary pressures came from clothing and footwear, which rose by 3.6%.

Overall transport costs rose by 0.8% between January and February, pushed up by a 1.4% increase in pump prices.

Chancellor George Osborne delivers his Budget today at 12.30.