The chancellor has vowed to “always balance the books”, despite increased spending in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a speech to party members, Rishi Sunak said the Conservatives had a “sacred duty” to “leave the public finances strong”.
He vowed the use the “overwhelming might of the British state” to help people find new work.
But he said debt and spending needed controlling “over the medium term”.
In an online speech during the Conservatives’ annual party conference, he said: “I won’t stop trying to find ways to support people and businesses.”
However, he added the party could not argue there was “no limit on what we can spend”, nor that “we can simply borrow our way out of any hole”.
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Mr Sunak cited the furlough scheme and its successor, the jobs support scheme , as examples of government action to support employment during the crisis.
He said though that, although the government would “keep striving to be creative” on employment support, he would also have to be “pragmatic”.
He told members that “no chancellor” would be able to save every job or business, adding changes to the economy due to Covid-19 “can’t be ignored”.
Official figures published in September show government borrowed £35.9bn in the previous month, its highest amount for August since records began in 1993.
Borrowing between April and August totalled £173.7bn, as ministers spent billions on coronavirus-related schemes to support the economy.