The decision to hold back part of the police pay increase this year was taken "in the national interest", Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told MPs.
Mr Brown said he did not want inflation to wipe out pay awards
Mr Brown, who said he would be willing to meet "people" to talk about the pay issue, said "the bigger picture" was the need to keep inflation down.
He spoke after officers decided to vote on ending their no-strike deal - and some urged the home secretary to quit.
Mr Brown said many "police do not want to break the no strike agreement".
The PM was speaking during his first session in front of the Commons liaison committee of senior MPs.
He argued that his policy has delivered a decade of "consistent stable growth" and said he was "determined" to deliver the same over the next ten years.
Officers are furious at Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's decision not to backdate a 2.5% pay rise for police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
PUBLIC SECTOR PAY
Police constables currently start on £21,009
Teachers' starting salary is £20,133 in England and Wales. In Scotland it is £23,316
New prison officers earn £18,483 in England and Wales. In Scotland they receive £14,373
Lower grade civil servants, such as administration assistants, begin on between £11,750 and £14,083 depending on department
Fire-fighters start on £20,396, rising to £27,185 after reaching "competent" status
Source: Unison 2006 figures, Fire Brigades Union
The 2.5% pay deal was decided through the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal.
But, as with other public sector workers such as nurses this year, the government decided not to award the full increase immediately.
Mr Brown stressed that since 1 December the full 2.5% increase was being paid - but in Scotland, the pay rise has been backdated to September, when it had been due to come in.
Critics say that without backdating, it amounts in real terms - due to inflation - to an increase of only 1.9%.
The retail prices index, on which many pay deals are based, puts the current level of inflation at 4.2%.
But Gordon Brown told MPs that police pay had risen by 39% over the last 10 years and that Scotland had only been able to backdate its pay rise by putting plans to recruit 500 new officers on hold.
More than 120 MPs have now signed a motion tabled by the home affairs select committee chair, Keith Vaz, urging a rethink on the issue.
Mr Vaz asked Mr Brown at the liaison committee session whether the three month delay was really worth it, given the impact on police officers.
Mr Brown replied: "Nobody wants to say to the police, you cannot get a higher salary.
"But nobody wants inflation to return to the British economy and have pay awards wiped out simply by rising inflation."
He said a decision had been made to stage public pay awards and it just happened that the police pay award was the last in the public sector.
"I would like to pay the police more, just as I would like to pay the nurses and those people who commit themselves daily to public service more, but you have to take a broader view of the national interest," he said.
The prime minister said interest rates had recently come down because inflation was down and that was because of the difficult decisions taken by the government to avoid the "boom and bust" of the past.