Prime Minister David Cameron has rewritten his speech to the Conservative conference removing a key passage which was interpreted as a call for households to pay off their credit card debts.

Early drafts of the speech indicated that Cameron would warn that the only way out of a debt crisis is to “deal with your debts”.

“That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store cards bills,” Cameron was expected to say today.

The comment sparked concern amongst retailers and economists. Cameron’s move comes at a time when retailers are already fighting hard for consumer spend.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King warned that the move would “not help retail”.

The British Retail Consortium said: “Consumers’ reluctance to spending has been a challenge for retailers for some time. We need spending to go on to stimulate the economy.”

Aides said that Mr Cameron had not intended his words to be seen as a call to action, but to describe a process that was already under way.

He has rewritten the passage to say that the country has been suffering from a debt crisis and “that’s why households are paying down their credit card and store card bills”.