Following yesterday's publication of a treasury paper in the framework for fiscal policy, Mr Brown said he was committed to 'bearing down on debt'.
But the move is expected to disappoint ministers in charge of big spending departments. 'This hairshirt capitalism from the treasury could be disastrous,' said one. 'The next year could see a wave of public sector strikes if we do not ease constraints on pay.'
The last published figure for the net debt/GDP ratio was 45% in April 1997, but the treasury estimates it fell to 43.5% during the last financial year.