Nine days to the Budget and there is still time for Gordon Brown to tweak what he profoundly hopes will be his last Budget speech.

He could be wrong - even if Tony Blair really does intend to step down in 2007, he could still drag out Mr Brown's agony beyond Budget time.

Be that as it may, you may trust to do his best to hurry things along by sounding more like Prime Minister than a Chancellor.

He has already cleared the decks with his pre-Budget statement, notably by slamming an extra tax on North Sea oil revenues. That, it is said, has already hit investment in clever technical efforts to extract all that can be extracted from Britain's dwindling oil reserves.

That is politics.

It should also have achieved Mr Brown's purpose, enabling him to get through this Budget without more image-denting tax increases.

He is free to project himself as the visionary Chancellor who comes up with the answer when everyone else is stumped - starting with the great pensions crisis.

New accounting rules, aggravated by a "risk-based' levy for the new pension protection fund, have sent some pension funds piling into long-dated, inflation-linked Government stock, or gilts.

There are nothing like enough of these to meet the demand.

So the prices of these long-dated stocks shot up and their yields collapsed to under one per cent after inflation at one point.

Worse, new accountancy rules link the value of a pension fund - or lack of it - to long-dated bond yields. Legal & General's economist Professor Andrew Clare calculates that a one per cent fall in yields now boosts pension fund liabilities by 20 per cent.

Here is a vicious circle.

As pension funds invest in sober-sided long gilts to match their liabilities to pay future pensions, they dig themselves into ever deeper deficits.

This is Mr Brown's big chance. He can pump out long gilts until there are enough to go round. If need be, he can pay off existing short and medium-term stocks and replace them with long-termers.

The price would fall, the yields would climb back, pension liabilities would miraculously shrink. Everyone would love the decisive Chancellor.

Some private individuals would win, too. Rates for annuities, the pensions you buy with a lump sum when your retire.

They are linked to gilt yields, too.

Today a 65-year-old man retiring with a pension pot of £100,000 can buy himself an income of just £4,467 - pretax. He would get a bit more if only gilt yields were higher.

Real life might be less simple. Not even Gordon Brown can abolish the law of unintended consequences.

A colossal multi-billion play like this can hardly escape it. Something would go wrong - short-term yields might collapse, for a start, making nonsense of the Bank of England's subtle policies.

Words in these matters are safer than deeds. It might be wiser just to sound tough, try to talk the yields up.

Better still, tell those accountants to change the rules, find a less fraught basis for pension valuations.