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The government is considering re-writing its own rules on how much it can borrow in order to counter the effects of the economic slowdown.
The new framework, which will probably be announced in the Autumn pre-Budget statement, would permit more borrowing as an alternative to increasing taxes.
The Treasury stressed no judgement had yet been taken.
The Tories say such a move would be final nail in the coffin of Gordon Brown's reputation for prudence.